EU backs Saudi efforts to broker Lebanon settlement


"We support all the efforts that Saudi Arabia is making in this field as well," Solana told reporters after talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on the second leg of a Middle East tour aimed at easing the stalemate in Lebanon.

Solana, who arrived in Riyadh from Beirut late on Monday, added that he would consult again with the Saudi leadership after visiting Damascus on Wednesday and meeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Solana later held talks with King Abdullah which addressed regional developments, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has spearheaded efforts to resolve the crisis between Lebanon’s Western-backed cabinet and the Syrian- and Iranian-backed opposition which has paralysed the government since last November.

Solana said in Beirut that he would hold "frank discussions" in Syria on its ties with Lebanon, where many people blame Damascus for a series of deadly bomb attacks.

He said he will also address the issue of a proposed UN tribunal intended to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

The assassination has been widely blamed on Syria, but Damascus has denied any involvement.

Arab diplomatic sources in Riyadh told AFP on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia was working on hosting a reconciliation meeting next week between Lebanon’s anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the largely pro-Damascus opposition.

The meeting would be along the lines of talks in Mecca last month that produced a Palestinian national unity deal between the secular Fatah faction of president Mahmud Abbas and the Islamist movement Hamas, an Arab diplomat said.

The proposed meeting would be held in Riyadh to "seal an agreement between the opposition and the parliamentary majority," he said.

The Saudi foreign minister told reporters at the news conference with Solana that while Riyadh had not made an official announcement concerning such a meeting, it would welcome one if it would help resolve the crisis.

"If their (Lebanese leaders’) presence here will lead to finding a solution that guarantees the interests of all as well as calm, stability and development in Lebanon, we would naturally welcome it," Prince Saud said.

He said he discussed Lebanon "in depth" with Solana.

"We hope the situation will be normalised in Lebanon so that dialogues between the various parties will be fruitful and no party feels it is negotiating under pressure," he said.

Saud also said he hoped Iran would use its influence in Lebanon to promote stability there.

During a visit to Riyadh on March 3, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reported to have backed Saudi efforts to break the political deadlock in Lebanon.

The Arab diplomat said Riyadh’s ambassador in Beirut, Abdul Aziz Khoja, is working on achieving an agreement between the rival sides.

His efforts led to recent crisis talks between majority leader Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier, and opposition speaker Nabih Berri, which sparked hopes of a breakthrough in the four-month-old crisis.

The reconciliation meeting would precede an Arab summit due to be held in the Saudi capital on March 28-29, the diplomat said.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa, who too has been trying to broker an end to the standoff, also arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The two issues at the crux of the Lebanon crisis are the opposition demand for a blocking minority in the government and the majority’s insistence on ratification of the Hariri tribunal.

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