Saudi king set for tour of Middle East, with stop in tense Lebanon
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was preparing Sunday for a whirlwind diplomatic tour of the Middle East, which will culminate in a key visit to the Lebanese capital Beirut amid growing tensions in the country, dpa reported.
According to Egyptian officials, the king will first touch down on Wednesday in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They noted that a Saudi diplomat delegation had arrived in the capital Cairo to prepare for the talks.
It will be the Egyptian leader's first meeting with the Saudi monarch since he underwent surgery in Germany this year. Reports continue to circulate about the ill health of Mubarak, 82.
The Saudi ruler will then head to Damascus to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, before moving on to neighbouring Lebanon, where tensions between the two key political groupings have risen in recent days.
Also visiting Lebanon over the weekend will be Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
King Abdullah will likely reach Beirut on Friday for talks with President Michel Suleiman. It was unclear if al-Assad will travel with the Saudi monarch and whether there would also be multi-lateral talks with the Qatari leader.
In May 2008, the so-called Doha Agreement was reached by rival Lebanese factions in Qatar, ending 18 months of political deadlock in the country.
Last month, the government passed its draft budget for 2010, the first time in five years the cabinet in Beirut managed to endorse such a programme.
However, concerns within the Shiite Hezbollah movement that its members could be indicted in September for involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri has widened the divide between the factions in Beirut.
Hariri's son, Said al-Hariri, is the current Lebanese premier, and sits at the head of a government with Western backing that also receives support from Saudi Arabia and other key Arab states.