Qatar's FM mediates between Lebanon and Syria

The Qatari foreign minister held talks with Lebanese and Syrian leaders on Wednesday in an attempt to defuse tensions between the Mideast neighbors, whose relations have deteriorated sharply since last year's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al Thani arrived in Beirut on a previously unannounced visit after a stop in Syria where he had talks with President Bashar Assad. In Beirut, he met separately with President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Sheik Hamad insisted that his talks in Damascus and Beirut should not be viewed as a Qatari initiative but simply a friendly visit to help repair strained relations between Lebanon and Syria. Later, Hamad said his country supported any Arab initiative to improve Lebanese-Syrian relations, but gave no indication if he made headway in patching up ties. So far Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Arab League have sought but failed to mend relations between Lebanon and Syria.