Hariri meets Nasrallah amid political row

Posted in Broader Middle East | 10-Apr-06 | Author: Nada Bakri| Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

BEIRUT: In the run-up to April 28, the self-set deadline to agree on the fate of President Emile Lahoud, Future Movement leader Saad Hariri met with Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and discussed latest national and regional developments. Hariri is one of the leading members of the Lebanese March 14 Forces calling to oust Lahoud, while Nasrallah strongly backs the president.

The meeting held over the weekend also addressed the national dialogue and its decisions, according to a statement released by Hizbullah.

The pair highlighted the importance of bilateral cooperation and stressed the need to adopt a responsible political line that will revive governmental institutions and improve the economy.

Separately, Hariri said he would strengthen his alliances with all the parties that supported him after the assassination of his father former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Hariri also warned Damascus that "it should wait for real subpoenas from the international court" in charge of trying suspects in his father's killings.

Hariri and Nasrallah's meeting came amid a political spat between Syria's foes and friends in Lebanon over the fate of Lahoud, the resistance's arms, demarcating the borders and establishing diplomatic relations with Syria, all addressed in the national talks.

To mend relations between Damascus and Beirut, national dialogue participants have decided to dispatch Premier Fouad Siniora to take the matter up personally with Syrian officials.

However, press reports emerged lately that Damascus is not in a rush to receive Siniora, adding that the meeting is more likely to take place after Siniora's visit to the U.S. where he will meet with President George W. Bush on April 18.

"Syrian officials want to see the kind of support the Americans will give Siniora before they receive him," one report said.

A report in Al-Iqtissadia magazine also added that Syrian officials will negotiate with Siniora as an official representing the Lebanese and "not a member of the anti-Syrian coalition."

Siniora told Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel over the weekend that his trip to Damascus would happen "if not tomorrow, then the day after."

He said his agenda for the trip would address all pending disputes: "Confidence building, diplomatic relations, demarcation of the border at Shebaa Farms, bilateral cooperation agreements, Lebanese persons missing in Syria and Syrians allegedly held in Lebanon."

Siniora also renewed his advice to Lahoud to resign voluntarily. "Lahoud is a symbol of an era that must end so Lebanon can once again become sovereign, free and independent and so it can have excellent relations with Syria."

Lahoud has refused repeated calls from Lebanon's anti-Syrian Parliament majority to resign, after his term was controversially extended by three years in 2004 in a move that was backed by then powerbroker Damascus.

Indirectly commenting on Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun's presidential candidacy, Siniora said: "I prefer that the future president be someone who is not of a military background."

Both Lahoud and Aoun are former army commanders.

Meanwhile, PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt warned Syrian President Bashar Assad and his allies in Lebanon against hindering Lebanon's march toward independence.

Jumblatt added that if the March 14 politicians' efforts fail to oust Lahoud "then we should strengthen ourselves economically and politically."