Lebanese PM meets Saudi king ahead of key vote


The two leaders met in the Red Sea city of Jeddah late on Tuesday and discussed "developments in Lebanon and ways to support cooperation between the two states in all fields," the official SPA news agency said on Wednesday.



King Abdullah told Siniora that the president should be elected with the agreement of all the Lebanese people, an unnamed source close to the meeting told AFP.



Saudi Arabia has been involved in efforts to end the impasse before the Lebanese parliament convenes on Tuesday to pick a successor to Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud.



The upcoming vote has exacerbated the lastest in a series of political crises, which began last November when pro-Syrian opposition forces, led by the Shiite movement Hezbollah, withdrew six ministers from the Siniora cabinet.



On August 17, Saudi Ambassador Abdel Aziz Khoja left Lebanon after the embassy formally notified the Lebanese foreign ministry of a threat of attack against his residence, the embassy or other Saudi interests in the country.



Khoja had been involved in efforts to broker an end to the rift with pro-Syrian factions that has paralysed Siniora’s legislative agenda.



A member of Saudi Arabia’s appointed Shura (Consultative) Council pointed the finger at Syria, claiming that proxies of Damascus in Lebanon could be behind the alleged threats.



Saudi relations with Syria have turned decidedly frosty, with Riyadh no longer endorsing a strong role for Damascus in Lebanon, where it held political and military sway for almost three decades, analysts have said.



In a tit-for-tat tirade, Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara aroused Saudi ire for suggesting that the kingdom’s regional influence was almost in a state of paralysis.



Riyadh retorted that Damascus, already in US sights for failing to do enough to end the conflict in neighbouring Iraq, was trying to stoke disorder in the region.



Relations chilled after the assassination of the Saudi-backed Lebanese former premier Rafiq Hariri in 2005, which ultimately led to Syria’s pullout of its troops in Lebanon after a three-decade military presence.



They deteriorated further last summer when Saudi Arabia implicitly accused the Syrian- and Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah of provoking the 34-day war with Israel which devastated Lebanon.



Last week, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem called off a planned visit to the kingdom, the first since that row, a Saudi official said.



Syria’s state news agency SANA denied any such visit was planned, saying the reports had been "spread by the media".


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