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Middle East
Saudis opt out of Lebanon talks
Kingdom withdraws from efforts aimed at easing tensions triggered by Hezbollah's pull-out from Lebanese government.
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2011 14:00 GMT
Leaders from Qatar and Turkey have met with Lebanese leaders to resolve the country's political crisis [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia has abandoned efforts to mediate in Lebanon's political crisis after Hezbollah quit the government last week.

Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV in an interview on Wednesday that the Saudi king is "withdrawing his hand" from Lebanon.

Lebanon is enduring a political crisis stemming from a UN court investigating the assassination of Rafik
Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister.

Asked about the situation in Lebanon, al-Faisal said: "It's dangerous, particularly if it reaches separatism or the division of Lebanon. This would mean the end of Lebanon as a model of peaceful coexistence between religions and ethnicities and different factions."

The foreign minister said that Saudi's King Abdullah and Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, had been in contact to help "end the whole Lebanon problem."

"When that did not happen, the custodian of the holy mosques [King Abdullah] said he was pulling his hand out" from the effort, Prince Saud was quoted as saying.

Ahmadinejad warning

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reported from Beirut that "it is being described as a dangerous development. Saudi Arabia is a major political power here, and it holds political sway.

"While Saudi Arabia may have decided to pull out, Qatar and Turkey are pushing forward, meeting leaders in Lebanon and Syria, which is a major supporter of the opposition," our correspondent said.

"There are fears that political tensions could spill over to streets."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has warned Israel, the US and some European nations on Wednesday to stop their "sedition" in Lebanon or the people there would "chop" their hands.

"You are on a rough downhill path that will take you into a deep valley and your actions show that your decline is on a fast track," Ahmadinejad told a cheering crowd in the city of Yazd in a speech broadcast live on state television.

"With these actions, you are damaging your reputation. Stop your interference. If you don't stop your sedition [in Lebanon], then the Lebanese nation and regional countries will cut your nasty, plotting hand."

Power-sharing system

On Tuesday, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister, and Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, met Saad Hariri, the son of the slain leader, who is staying on as a caretaker prime minister.

The officials also met with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader.

According to Lebanon's power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shia Muslim.

Each faith makes up about a third of Lebanon's population of four million.

Hariri, a Sunni, is backed by Western powers, including the US, while Hezbollah is supported by Iran and by neighbouring Syria.

In May 2008, armed supporters of Hezbollah took over parts of Beirut after the government shut down its private telecommunications network and stepped up its control at the airport.

Dozens of people were killed in fighting across the country.

Source:
Al Jazeera and Agencies
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