Kuwait City, Asharq Al-Awsat and Agencies – The US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Welch, confirmed Monday that Syria was “not invited” to talks on the Lebanese political crisis to be held today on the sidelines of the Ministerial Conference of the Neighboring Countries of Iraq in Kuwait.
Twelve foreign ministers in addition to representatives from the UN, the Arab League and the European Union will discuss the Lebanese crisis.
Welch told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The meeting on Lebanon will be held (today) and attended by the concerned states.”
Asked about the possibility of Syria participating in the meeting, Welch said, “Syria will not take part as it is not invited,” adding, “there are major Arab countries that would not participate in the meeting if Syria takes part.”
When asked to name these countries, Welch said, “The states that did not participate with high level [representation] at the [Arab] Summit; they would not take part in the meeting if Syria is in attendance.”
On Monday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated “There was a very strong commitment to a Lebanon that can discharge its affairs in an atmosphere of sovereignty and democracy without outside interference.”
In the same respect, Saudi Arabia called for the Lebanese to work towards uniting the country to confront new attempts to control it. A statement that was made after the weekly Saudi cabinet meeting said, “The kingdom calls upon all the Lebanese to work to form one Lebanese front that would owe allegiance to no one except Lebanon.”
The statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) added that such a front “would have the ability to overcome new hegemonic attempts that the country is facing and that aim to make Lebanon a link in a chain of a regional clout which, in principal, is contradictory to the concepts of national choice and Muslim unity.”
On Tuesday, Lebanon’s parliament failed to hold a session to elect a president – the 18th time the chamber has been unable to hold a vote derailed by the worst political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri did not set a new election date and instead called on rival leaders to hold roundtable talks. “In one, two or three days at most if I don’t find a (positive) response for the dialogue, I will set a new session,” Berri, also an opposition leader, told reporters after parliament failed to hold the vote due to lack of two-thirds quorum.
The political crisis has paralysed much of government, left the presidency vacant since November and led to bouts of lethal street violence in a country still rebuilding from its 15-year civil war.
The Lebanese rivals have agreed that army chief General Michel Suleiman should fill the presidency, vacant since the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expired in November.
But Suleiman’s confirmation by parliament has been repeatedly derailed by a dispute over the make-up of a cabinet to be formed after his election and a parliamentary election law. Parliament cannot convene to elect the president unless there is a deal between the rival camps that will secure a quorum for the vote.