DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syria’s president urged Lebanon’s leader early Monday to support the militant group Hezbollah and maintain calm in the country.
Bashar Assad met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Damascus for a pre-dawn meal called “suhour,” the last meal before the day time fast resumes for the holy month of Ramadan, the Syrian state-run news agency reported.
Hariri has visited Damascus repeatedly this year in a sign of Syria’s renewed influence over Lebanon in the years since Damascus withdrew its military in 2005, ending a nearly three-decade hold on Lebanon. Hariri’s visits indicate that he needs Syrian support as his Western-backed coalition struggles at home.
Syria backs the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has a large role in Lebanon’s fragile national unity government.
Last week, street battles in Beirut between the Shiite militant Hezbollah and a small Sunni group killed three people, exacerbating sectarian tensions in Lebanon. Later Monday, Hariri was expected to head the first meeting of a new committee formed to discuss ways of ridding the Lebanese capital of weapons.