(dpa) - US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch arrived in Lebanon on Thursday to discuss the protracted presidential crisis with rival political leaders, Lebanese officials said.
Welch met with Prime Minister Fouad Seniora, whose Western-backed government is locked in a stand-off with the Hezbollah-led opposition over the election of a president.
The American envoy is scheduled to meet with parliament speaker and opposition leader Nabih Berri as well as anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
US embassy spokeswoman Cherie Lenzen said Welch's previously unannounced visit coincides with a ceremony on Friday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the US embassy bombing in Beirut. More than 70 people were killed, most of them embassy staff.
Welch's visit also comes few days before Lebanese lawmakers are scheduled to make an 18th attempt to try to elect a successor for former pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud, who stepped down at the end of his mandate in November, 2007.
The American diplomat's visit came after Pope Benedict XVI and US President George Bush said on Wednesday in a joint statement that Lebanon must be free of undue foreign influence.