Saudi king voices fear of targeting Lebanon's Sunnis

AFP & Ahram Online, Wednesday 23 May 2012

Saudi King Abdullah expresses his fear over targeting the Sunni majority in Lebanon amid the sectarian tensions hitting the multi-ethnic state during a phone call with President Michel Sleiman

Lebanese Sunni Muslim mourners carry the body of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, a Sunni Muslim cleric, during his funeral at his hometown at al-Bireh, northern Lebanon, May 21, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Saudi King Abdullah voiced fear over targeting the Sunni community in Lebanon and urged action to avert a sectarian strife resulting from a spillover of the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

The kingdom "follows with deep concerns the developments in Tripoli (in north Lebanon), especially the targeting of one of the main sects of Lebanon," he said in reference to co-religionist Sunnis, in a phone call with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, SPA state news agency reported late Tuesday.

He called on Sleiman to act "due to the gravity of the crisis and its potential to escalate into a sectarian conflict in Lebanon, dragging it back into the spectre of civil war."

Abdullah urged Sleiman to act within the framework of his efforts to "dissociate Lebanon from external conflicts, especially the crisis in neighbouring Syria," SPA said.

It said the leader of the Sunni heavyweight also urged Lebanese parties to "give priority to the interest of Lebanon over all other factional interests, and that of external parties that do not want good for Lebanon or the Arab region in general."

Tension has heightened in Lebanon over the past 10 days amid clashes between factions supporting the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and others backing the Syrian rebellion.

A Sunni cleric known for supporting Syrian rebels and refugees was shot dead Sunday along with a companion by the Lebanese army in northern Lebanon in a vague incident that is being investigated by authorities.

The killing triggered a wave of Sunni protests in several parts of the multi-confessional nation.

In a related development,  Progressive Socialist Party (PSP)  leader Walid Jumblatt flew to Saudi Arabia Sunday on an official invitation to meet the country's King, along with an array of high-ranking Saudi officials and Lebanon's ex-premier Saad Hariri. Sources close to him told The Lebanese Daily Star.

The PSP leader’s ties with Saudi Arabia cooled down after he nominated Najib Mikati, Hariri’s rival, for premiership last January. Several attempts by the Druze leader to restore ties with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah have been unsuccessful so far. 

The newspaper pointed out that it was still too early to predict the outcomes of Jumblatt’s visit on the domestic level or the effects it would have on the fate of the Mikati government, as sources from the parliamentary majority did not entirely rule out the possibility of Jumblatt changing stances or shifting alliances following his visit to Riyadh.



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