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Lebanon will not attend Arab summit

Latest update : 2008-03-26

The Lebanese cabinet decided on Tuesday that the country, which is facing a protracted presidential crisis, will not be represented at this week's Arab summit in Damascus, a cabinet minister said.

BEIRUT, March 25 (Reuters) - Lebanon's anti-Syrian
government said on Tuesday it would boycott a March 29-30 Arab
summit in Damascus because of Syria's role in blocking the
election of a new Lebanese president.
 

The Beirut government blames Syria and its Lebanese allies,
led by guerrilla and political movement Hezbollah, for the
crisis that has paralysed government and left the country
without a president for the first time since the end of the
1975-90 civil war.
 

"Based on the injustice that Syria has subjected Lebanon to
(and) in light of the vacuum in the presidency ... the council
of ministers decides that Lebanon will not take part in the Arab
summit in Damascus that is scheduled for March 29-30," the
government said in a statement after a cabinet meeting.
 

The statement described the boycott as "a regrettable
precedent that has been imposed on us", noting that Lebanon had
never before stayed away from the Arab meeting.
 

Lebanon is at the heart of a conflict between Syria and
Saudi Arabia -- which supports Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's
cabinet and also blames Damascus for the crisis.
 

Saudi Arabia has decided to send its permanent Arab League
representative to the Damascus summit -- effectively a snub of a
meeting that should bring together heads of state.
 

Like Saudi King Abdullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
is also not expected to attend the summit. Both Arab powers are
key allies of the United States, which also supports Siniora's
government and accuses Syria of meddling in Lebanon.
 

Syria's allies in Lebanon accuse the governing coalition of
being no more than tools of U.S. foreign policy and say that
Washington has derailed initiatives to resolve the conflict.
 

Lebanon has been without a president since Emile Lahoud's
term ended in November.
 

The rival Lebanese alliances have agreed that army chief
General Michel Suleiman should fill the presidency, which is
reserved for a Maronite Christian according to Lebanon's
sectarian power-sharing system.
 

But his confirmation by a vote in parliament has been held
up by a dispute over seats in a new cabinet and a new
parliamentary election law.
 

The governing alliance has refused to yield to the
opposition's demand for effective veto power in government.
 

Parliament had been due to convene on Tuesday to elect
Suleiman but the session was postponed on Monday to April 22 in
the absence of any deal. It was the 17th official postponement
of the presidential election.

Date created : 2008-03-26

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