Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Annan talks Lebanon with Assad, Ahmadineja

AFP , UNITED NATIONS

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke with the presidents of Iran and Syria about the need for stability in Lebanon, his spokesman said on Saturday.

The phone diplomacy came ahead of an expected UN Security Council vote today on setting up an international court to try suspects in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The tribunal, proposed by Annan, has been the focus of an unfolding political crisis in Lebanon, months after its battering in the month-long Israeli-Hezbollah war.

"The secretary general spoke with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and President Bashir al-Assad of Syria about developments in Lebanon and the need for countries in the region in particular and the international community as a whole to promote the stability and unity of Lebanon," a statement issued by Annan's spokesman said.

Annan "urged them to counsel the parties concerned to exercise patience and resolve their differences through dialogue," said the statement, issued in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Today, the 15-member Security Council is scheduled to examine a report by Annan on creating an international court to try suspects in the Hariri killing in a massive Beirut bomb attack last year.

A UN probe into the murder, still underway, has implicated senior officials from Syria, which for decades was the power-broker in its smaller neighbor.

Damascus strongly denies any connection with the killing.

The tribunal has been the focus of a political crisis in Lebanon that led six pro-Syrian ministers to quit earlier this month.

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