Sun, Jun 08, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Sarkozy supports Lebanese counterpart

AFP , BEIRUT

French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Lebanon yesterday in a show of support for his newly elected counterpart, Michel Suleiman, and for efforts to promote national unity after months of often deadly political crisis.

Sarkozy is the first Western head of state to visit the country since Suleiman took office last month.

He was greeted at Beirut airport by Suleiman, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri.

Sarkozy on his day-long visit was due to lend his support and deliver a message of unity, his office said, a reference to an 18-month political deadlock that drove the country to the brink of civil war at the beginning of last month.

Along with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, the French delegation included Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Defense Minister Herve Morin and the leaders of all of France’s major political parties.

The delegation was set to meet leaders of 14 Lebanese political parties, including the powerful Shiite opposition movement Hezbollah.

The crisis between the anti-Syrian ruling bloc, backed by the West and most Arab states, and the Hezbollah-led opposition, supported by Syria and Iran, began in late 2006, when the opposition withdrew from the Cabinet.

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