Arab ministers discuss Syria summit

Damascus invites Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to conference amid fears of boycott.

    Al-Muallem said the Damascus meeting will go
    ahead despite threats of a boycott [AFP]
    Moderate Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are reportedly threatening to boycott the meeting if no president is elected in Lebanon by then.

    But al-Muallem said the summit will go ahead, regardless of any boycotts.

    "The preparations are in full swing and [the summit] will be held as scheduled," he said.

    Saudi Arabia has so far refused to set a date for al-Muallem to travel to Riyadh, the captial, to deliver an invitation to King Abdullah to attend the summit.

    Power struggle
     
    The failure to elect a new Lebanese president has compounded a year-long power struggle between the government of Fouad Siniora, the prime minister, and the opposition led by Hezbollah.

    In January, Arab foreign ministers - including al-Muallem - unanimously adopted the so-called Arab plan for Lebanon.

    The blueprint backs General Michel Suleiman, the head of the Lebanese army, as the country's next president, and calls on Lebanon to form a national unity government and adopt a new election law.

    Several attempts by Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, have since failed to convince the Lebanese parties and Syria to end the dispute on the basis of the plan.
     
    Summit focus
     
    The failure of the diplomatic efforts has prompted Egypt and Saudi Arabia to focus the summit on finding an end to the political crisis in Lebanon.

    Earlier, in his opening address to the foreign ministers' meeting, Moussa dismissed the possibility the summit could be cancelled or postponed because of the Lebanon imbroglio.

    "The summit will be held later this month, God willing," he said.

    Moussa also said that regional "dangers and challenges" necessitated the meeting going ahead as planned.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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