02/18/2008, 00.00
LEBANON

Arab pressure on Syria over the election of the Lebanese president

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are threatening to boycott the Arab League summit in Damascus. Patriarch Sfeir highlights the need for the factions to overcome the distance that divides them.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Egypt and Saudi Arabia could desert the meeting of the Arab League in Damascus, scheduled for March 27 and 28, if Lebanon does not have a president by then.  Conveyed through diplomatic channels, and not for the first time, this threat risks scuttling the Arab summit, which would be a disaster for Syria and clearly appears to be a means of pressuring Damascus.  The objective is to urge Syria to convince its Lebanese allies to consent to the election of their head of state.

It is significant that echoes of this hypothesis can be found, apart from the Lebanese press, in the media of the Gulf countries as well, and that the secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has confirmed that he will return to Beirut before the next meeting of parliament to elect the head of state, scheduled for the 26th.

In Beirut, meanwhile, the tension is growing.  Saturday night at least 20 people were wounded following clashes between supporters of the majority and of the opposition in the western area of the capital.  The groups accuse each other of having attacked their rivals.

And "the depth of the division among the Lebanese" has been emphasised with preoccupation by Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir.  Yesterday, during the Sunday Mass, the cardinal spoke of the "discrepancy" seen on Thursday between two demonstrations that took place in Beirut, one in favour of the governing majority, and the other for the funeral of Imad Moughniyah, the military head of Hezbollah, which took place at the same time and not far from one another.  The duty of the Lebanese, the patriarch stressed, is to unite in order to save their country, because they are the only ones who can do so.

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