WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama called Saudi King Abdullah on Tuesday, wishing him a speedy recovery from recent surgery and saying he wanted to keep working with Saudi Arabia and others to stabilize the situation in Lebanon, the White House said.
Obama is due to meet Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Wednesday, a day after Saudi Arabia and Syria failed to broker a deal to curb tensions in Lebanon over an international investigation into the 2005 killing of Hariri’s father, former premier Rafik al-Hariri.
The White House said Obama telephoned the Saudi monarch in New York to wish him well after he was reported in late December to have left a hospital there in good health following an operation to stabilize vertebrae in his spinal column. The king is thought to be around 86 or 87.
“The president told the king that, in light of their shared commitment to Lebanon’s welfare and to supporting Prime Minister Hariri, he looks forward to continuing to work together with Saudi Arabia and other partners to support Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence and stability,” the White House said in a statement.
Hariri, a Western-backed moderate, had been in New York since Friday for talks with Abdullah, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The apparent breakdown in mediation prompted calls from Hezbollah and its allies for an urgent cabinet meeting, and one source said they would pull out of the Lebanese government unless it agreed to halt cooperation with the U.N.-backed tribunal.
Saudi Arabia and Syria, which back rival camps in Lebanon, have worked since July to overcome deep disagreements over the tribunal which have paralyzed Lebanon’s government and revived fears of sectarian conflict.
Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the 2005 bombing which killed Hariri and 22 others. It has denounced the tribunal as an “Israeli project” and has urged the prime minister to reject its findings. The United States backs the tribunal.