CAIRO (AFP) – France will have no more contact with Syria until Damascus shows its willingness to let Lebanon end its current crisis and appoint a new president, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday.
France “will have no more contact with Syria… until we have proof of Syrian willingness to let Lebanon appoint a president by consensus,” Sarkozy told journalists following talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Former colonial power France “wants a president for Lebanon,” Sarkozy said. “It’s time to provide proof (of goodwill), it’s time for Syria to show it.”
“It’s time for Syria to prove with facts what it has not stopped saying in speeches,” Sarkozy said. “We are now waiting for acts on Syria’s part and not speeches.”
Syrian troops left Lebanon in 2005 after a near 30-year presence but Damascus continues to be accused of meddling in Lebanese affairs.
Only last month, Sarkozy called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reopening top-level contacts after a three-year break in a bid end the Lebanese political crisis in Lebanon, Syrian media reported at the time.
And also in November, while French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner shuttled between rival leaders in Beirut, two aides to Sarkozy also met Assad in Damascus
Lebanon has been without a president since November 23 when incumbent Emile Lahoud ended his term with rival parties unable to agree on a successor.
A parliamentary vote to appoint a president has been postponed 11 times amid sharp divisions between Lebanon’s pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.
On Sunday, Sarkozy also said that France would free up funds to finance a tribunal set up to judge those behind a series of assassinations in Lebanon that began with the murder of former president Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon will also try suspects in other attacks against anti-Syrian Lebanese figures carried out between October 2004 and December 2005 if they are linked to the Hariri slaying.
UN investigators probing Hariri’s murder have identified several people who they say may have been involved in the slaying, but no one has been charged.
Many in Lebanon blame Damascus for the attacks, charges denied by Syria.