Lebanese PM: trust-building process with Syria can't be obstructed

14:03, February 26, 2010      

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday attempted to defuse tension with Damascus by vowing to maintain the trust-building process with the Syrian leadership, amid a looming crisis with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over earlier remarks made by Hariri.

"I decided to build trust with Syria because it serves the interests of both Beirut and Damascus," Hariri told reporters at the Government Palace in Beirut, adding that he would not go back on his decision to do so.

He said that "trust-building is an ongoing process with Syria, and nothing can obstruct it. The national and Arab interests are above anything else."

Hariri's comments came after Syrian daily al-Watan quoted high- ranking Syrian sources as expressing in remarks published on Wednesday disappointment about Hariri's remarks published in Italian daily Corriere della Sera last Sunday.

The Lebanese PM told the Italian newspaper that "Syrian behavior was similar to the one that existed between Iraq and Kuwait when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein refused to recognize Kuwait."

Al-Watan said that Damascus is seeking clarification from Hariri over his "insult" to both Lebanon and Syria.

Lebanese daily As Safir on Thursday also quoted well-informed Lebanese sources as saying that what has been expressed by the Syrian newspaper came one day after a telephone conversation between al-Assad and Hariri.

The sources told As Safir that the Syrian president admonished Hariri for his "verbal expressions that do not help to create a new atmosphere in relations between the two countries."

The Lebanese PM paid in last December a landmark visit to Damascus, pledging with the Syrian president to open new prospects on bilateral relations. The visit ended nearly five years of bitterness between the two countries.

Relations between Hariri and Syria have been edgy since Feb. 14, 2005, when Hariri's father Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister was assassinated in Beirut.

Syria is suspected of being involved in the killing, but Damascus has always denied it.

Source: Xinhua
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