Saudi abandons mediation bid in 'dangerous' Lebanon

AFP , Wednesday 19 Jan 2011

Amid fears that Lebanon is slipping irrevocably towards crisis, the Saudi foreign minister reveals he has given up working towards solving the multi-ethnic country's problems

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said his country has abandoned mediation efforts in Lebanon, where he described the situation as "dangerous," in an interview with Al-Arabiya on Wednesday.

Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been in contact "with commitment to end the whole Lebanon problem."

"When that did not happen, the custodian of the two holy mosques said he was pulling his hand out" from the effort, he told the Saudi-owned television news channel.

Faisal described the situation in Lebanon as "dangerous" and expressed fears of division in the multi-confessional nation.

"If the situation reaches full separation and (regional) partition, this means the end of Lebanon as a state that has this model of peaceful cohabitation between (different) religions and ethnicities," he added.

Lebanon has been headed for a crisis since last summer, when reports surfaced that the powerful Hezbollah could face an indictment by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in connection with ex-premier Rafiq Hariri's 2005 assassination.

Fears of sectarian violence have mounted since the court's prosecutor submitted an indictment on Monday, and registrar Herman von Hebel said the case may go to trial by September regardless of whether any arrests had been made.

The indictment has not been made public.

A long-running dispute between rival parties in Lebanon over the STL last week prompted Hezbollah and its allies to walk out of the unity government of Western-backed Saad Hariri, son of the slain leader.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has warned his party would not stand idle should the court implicate any of its members.

Experts have predicted a protracted political crisis and warn tensions could escalate into violence at any moment in Lebanon, a tiny country that has been gripped for decades by political unrest and all-out war.

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