Saniora accuses Syria of holding Lebanon hostage

Lebanese PM asks Arabs for help ending the political deadlock; says Syria is kidnapping a brotherly country.

saniora mubarak 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
saniora mubarak 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora accused Syria on Sunday of trying to take Lebanon hostage by blocking the election of a new president and asked Arabs for help to end the political deadlock. Saniora said he wanted Arab foreign ministers to meet soon to discuss the crisis, three months after the group unanimously adopted a plan that called for the Lebanese parliament to elect Army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman as consensus president. "It is not permissible to kidnap a brotherly country and take it hostage in the hope of getting a ransom," Saniora told reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The anti-Syrian government led by Saniora has accused Damascus of working with its opposition allies in Lebanon's parliament to block the election of Suleiman - a charge denied by Syria. The office has been vacant since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended in November without a successor elected. "Lebanon wants the ministers to discuss the basic issues, mainly Lebanese-Syrian relations," said Saniora, who is on a regional tour seeking Arab support to end the Lebanese crisis. He is also scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia. Saniora first called for an emergency meeting last week after an annual Arab summit in Syria failed to address the Lebanese presidential crisis. Several Sunni Arab leaders, including Mubarak and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, boycotted the summit and instead sent low-level officials to protest Syrian policies in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East. Arab foreign ministers unanimously adopted a plan in Cairo in January that called for the election of Suleiman as a consensus president, formation of a national unity government and the adoption of a new electoral law. The country's sharply divided parliament has failed to elect Suleiman as president because the parliamentary majority and the opposition remain deadlocked over the shape of the future government. The majority has strongly rejected the opposition's demand for veto power over future government decisions. Beirut accuses Damascus of preventing the presidential election to destabilize Lebanon and reassert its control over the neighboring country.