(Reuters) - Syria agrees with France that rival Lebanese camps should decide on a compromise presidential candidate without outside interference, President Bashar al-Assad told French envoys on Sunday.
Lebanon's presidential election has been delayed until November 12 to allow time for pro- and anti-Syrian groups to find a compromise candidate to succeed pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires on November 23.
Agreement on a new president is seen as vital to resolving Lebanon's most serious political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. It pits the Western-backed, anti-Syrian government against the opposition, led by pro-Syrian Hezbollah.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sent chief of staff Claude Gueant and his top diplomatic adviser Jean-David Levitte to meet President Assad to try to end the impasse.
"The discussions focused on Lebanon and need to urge the Lebanese to find a consensus candidate," the official news agency said after Assad met the envoys.
"The views matched that the Lebanese must be allowed to elect their president freely and without outside interference," the Syrian agency said.
The two envoys were the highest ranking French officials to visit Syria since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik al-Hariri, which led to withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and more Western efforts to isolate the Damascus government.