Saudi abandons mediation efforts in Lebanon: FM

Describes Lebanon political turmoil as "dangerous"


Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said his country has abandoned mediation efforts in Lebanon, where he described the situation as "dangerous," Al Arabiya reported 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 holy mosques said he was pulling his hand out" from the effort, he said.

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 is facing a political crisis after the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) issued a confidential draft indictment in the 2005 killing of former premier Rafiq al-Hariri. A government headed by his son Saad al-Hariri was brought down last week over the issue.

The Saudi announcement follows a Turkish-Qatari-Syrian summit that was held this week in Damascus mainly for reviving the Saudi-Syrian efforts to resolve the Lebanese hit crisis.

Int'l diplomatic efforts

The Lebanese government collapse has sparked a flurry of international diplomatic efforts to contain the political storm that many fear could degenerate into sectarian violence.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Syria's President Bashar al-Assad met in Damascus to discuss the Lebanese crisis.

The three leaders "expressed their commitment to a solution to the Lebanese crisis based on Syrian-Saudi good offices so as to achieve understanding between the Lebanese and avoid a deterioration of the situation," Syrian news agency SANA said.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies quit the cabinet on Wednesday because of a dispute over the tribunal.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said he believes the indictments would implicate members of his party, a scenario he has repeatedly rejected.

In a televised speech late Sunday, Nasrallah vowed his group would defend itself against the likely charges, without giving details.

Prince Fisal made his announcement from Sharm al-Sheikh, where he headed the Kingdom's delegation in the preparatory ministerial meetings prior to the Arab Economic Summit, scheduled to open in Egypt on Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday consulted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on tensions in Lebanon sparked over the tribunal indictments.

Obama spoke to the Egyptian leader after U.S. officials said last week they were seeking to exert leverage in Lebanon though key regional players.

Obama told Mubarak he was grateful for his support for the U.N. probe in Lebanon, which has kept its first indictment in the killing of the former prime minister under wraps amid fears of violence in Beirut.