03/26/2008, 00.00
LEBANON – MIDDLE EAST
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Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to boycott Damascus meeting

by Paul Dakiki
Syria is blamed for Lebanon’s presidential deadlock. Arab countries fear Iran’s growing influence.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon has decided not to take part in the Arab League summit scheduled to open in Damascus on Saturday. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appears poised to stay away. Saudi Arabia will send instead a low-level diplomat.

Lebanon’s Information Minister Ghazi Aridi made the announcement of his government’s decision, accusing Syria for the protracted crisis that has prevented the election of the country’s president since last November.

A presidential vote has not taken place because of the undue demands by the Hizbollah-led opposition, and fears in the anti-Syrian camp since its members have targeted by terrorist attacks.

Regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt have also blamed Syria for obstructing the election. For this reason Riyadh has decided to send a low-profile representative to the summit. And short of any major developments, the Egyptian president will be absent from the meeting.

The Arab League is deeply divided over different visions regarding important issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and relations with the United States and Israel.

Ultimately Arab countries are also concerned about rising Iranian and Shia influence in the region. Iran in fact backs Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

According to Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Iran will dominate the Damascus summit via its proxy Syria.

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