Rival Lebanese leaders agree to halt Syria spillover

Reuters , Monday 11 Jun 2012

Pro-, anti-Assad politicians in Lebanon agree on steps aimed at preventing country from turning into staging area in Syrian conflict

n this photo released by Lebanon's official government photographer Dalati Nohra, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, center head of the table, heads the national dialogue at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, (Photo: AP).

Rival Lebanese politicians overcame deep divisions on Monday to agree at their first National Dialogue meeting in over 18 months to give the army financial resources to try to prevent violence in Syria from spilling over the border.

The country has seen clashes between supporters and opponents of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the border region has been used by rebels to smuggle arms into Syria and take refuge from Syrian troops.

"(Leaders agreed to) support the army on both the moral and financial levels given that it is the only institution capable of preserving civil peace," said a statement issued by President Michel Suleiman, who called the meeting.

Monday's statement said the 17 leaders had agreed on the need to "control the situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border and prevent the creation of a buffer zone in Lebanon or use Lebanon as a route, headquarters, or an area of smuggling arms or armed men".

Lebanon's politicians are at odds with each other over the Syrian revolt, with Shiite Muslim Hezbollah supporting Assad and others the opposition.

Most agree that Syria's crisis has the potential to destabilise Lebanon, which suffered 15 years of civil war.

Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri first called for National Dialogue meetings in 2006, to dampen longstanding tensions between political parties.

Previous National Dialogue sessions have been boycotted by party members over various domestic disputes, but only the head of the Christian Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, boycotted Monday's meeting, in a protest against Hezbollah holding weapons.

The guerrilla group and political force, which is backed by Iran and Syria, is the only one of Lebanon's rival armed groups which did not lay down its arsenal when the civil war ended in 1990.

Hezbollah's armed resistance to Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon was a major reason for the latter's withdrawal from the country in 2000.

The politicians will meet again on June 25 for the next session of the dialogue.

Edited by Ahram Online

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