CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora on Saturday called on Arab leaders to support his country during its ongoing political crisis that has pitted his Western-backed government against the Hezbollah-led opposition.
During a meeting with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, Saniora said he also was counting on support from Arabs to help maintain economic stability in Lebanon.
“All Arabs are aware of the suffering the Lebanese have had for the last 30 years and the need for support to overcome the problems built during that long period ending with the Israeli invasion into Lebanon that caused a lot of destruction,” he told reporters after his meeting with Mubarak.
Saniora’s meeting in Egypt kicked off the embattled Lebanese leader’s Middle East tour, where he is set to meet leaders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain as part of an attempt to shore up Arab backing for his government.
The crisis began when six pro-Hezbollah Cabinet ministers resigned in November after Saniora rejected their demands for a new national unity government that would have allowed them to veto major decisions.
The militant group, whose political clout escalated after its 34-day war with Israel last summer, began staging mass protests and an ongoing sit-in in downtown Beirut near Saniora’s headquarters since Dec. 1 in an effort to force the government to resign. But Saniora has refused to step down, accusing the opposition of staging a coup upon orders from Syria and Iran.
Some Arab leaders, including Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, have tried to reach a compromise with the two sides but have failed to resolve the crisis.
Saniora also discussed an upcoming international donors conference in Paris with Mubarak. The Jan. 25 conference is aimed at raising funds for rebuilding Lebanon after the summer war.