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MENAFN - Arab News - 31/07/2010

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(MENAFN - Arab News) The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon met here Friday in a rare summit and urged Arab countries to stand united to confront the Israeli challenge. They also called for intensive efforts to establish a just and lasting peace settlement in the Middle East.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad visited Beirut together Friday and met with President Michel Suleiman and other Lebanese leaders in an unprecedented show of solidarity in a bid to defuse tensions over reports of an impending indictment of members of Hezbollah for Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's murder.

The summit leaders urged Lebanese parties to avoid resorting to violence.

"The leaders stressed the importance of stability... the commitment (of the Lebanese) not to resort to violence and the need to place the country's interests above all sectarian interests," said a communiqu issued by the Lebanese presidency after the summit.

The statement also stressed the need to "resort to legal institutions and Lebanon's unity government to resolve any differences."

The communiqu urged Lebanese parties to "pursue the path of appeasement and dialogue and to boost national unity in the face of outside threats."

The Saudi and Syrian leaders said they stood in solidarity with Lebanon "in the face of Israel's daily violations of its sovereignty and its attempts to destabilize the country."

They condemned Israel's Gaza siege and its efforts to Judaize Jerusalem.

Asked about the outcome of the brief talks as he left the presidential palace, the Syrian leader gave a thumbs up and said: "The discussions were excellent."

Assad was visiting Lebanon for the first time since Hariri's assassination in 2005. Damascus has consistently denied accusations it had a hand in the killing.

The summit discussed "means to enhance national unity, internal stability and opportunities for economic growth in Lebanon," the communiqu said.

The leaders praised positive developments that have been achieved since the 2008 Doha Agreement. While supporting the Doha Agreement, they expressed their intention to complete the execution of the Taif Accord.

In a symbolic move to improve relations, King Abdullah watered the Saudi-Lebanese friendship tree and Assad the Syrian-Lebanese friendship tree, which they had planted at Baabda Palace Garden during previous visits.

Assad and Suleiman also met separately for about 20 minutes. Relations between the two countries have been on the mend since 2008, when diplomatic ties were established for the first time. Prime Minister Saad Hariri has made four trips to Syria in the past eight months.

Saudi Arabia, a staunch supporter of Lebanon, has played a key role in the rapprochement between the Arab neighbors. Saudi and Syrian flags were on display all over the Lebanese capital on Friday along with huge portraits of King Abdullah. Security was tight, with additional army and police deployed.

Premier Hariri told Al Arabiya satellite channel on Thursday that he believed the three-way summit would provide "considerable stability" to Lebanon. "This visit comes within the framework of an initiative launched by King Abdullah during the Kuwait economic summit to improve inter-Arab relations," he said.

The visit by the Saudi and Syrian leaders was for only three hours and included a lunch attended by some 250 officials, among them members of the unity government, which includes two Hezbollah ministers.

King Abdullah later reached Amman ,where he was greeted by King Abdallah of Jordan and given a red-carpet welcome. Jordan is the last leg of King Abdullahs four-nation Arab tour.

An-Nahar Arabic daily, which is close to the Hariri government, called the summit historic. "This joint visit is historic and decisive because of its timing and the consequences it can have on a mounting crisis in Lebanon related to the tribunal," it said.

Fears of renewed violence rose last week after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah revealed that he knew the UN tribunal probing Hariri's murder was poised to indict members of his party. He made it clear that he would not accept such a scenario, accusing the tribunal of being politicized and part of an Israeli plot.

"The Arab leaders' visit to Lebanon is an opportunity to show Arab unity in the face of this plot which aims to destabilize Lebanon and sow sedition," Hezbollah deputy Hassan Fadlallah said.


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