Lebanese premier will not see Bush in Egypt, sources say

Other News Materials 17 May 2008 01:46 (UTC +04:00)

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora will not meet with US President George W Bush in Egypt on Sunday because he will be busy with talks between opposing Lebanese factions in Doha to end Lebanon's crisis, a Lebanese government source said Friday, dpa reported.

"The premier's priority now is to end the Lebanese conflict," the source said.

Bush vowed last week to stand by Seniora and his pro-Western government after they were dealt a military blow by Hezbollah.

Bush was due to meet the prime minister on the sidelines of an economic forum in the Red Sea port of Sharm el-Sheikh.

According to sources close to the Lebanese opposition, "Seniora now has a very tight schedule and he does not want to meet Bush to anger the opposition led by Hezbollah."

Flights resumed at Beirut's airport Friday, as Lebanese politicians left for talks in Qatar in Doha designed to ease the conflict between Lebanon's pro-Western government and Hezbollah, that took over large parts of the city by force last week.

The talks, brokered on Thursday in Beirut by the 22-member Arab League, will take place in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.

Negotiators will try to agree on a new Lebanese president, a new electoral law and a national unity cabinet, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said Thursday. The rival groups boarded a Qatar Airways plane for the trip to Doha, Voice of Lebanon radio reported.

Hezbollah won a key concession before the agreement to go to Qatar. Its militia, along with allied gunmen, assaulted west Beirut May 7 to stop Prime Minister Fouad Siniora from probing the group's communication network and sacking the airport security chief for alleged links with the movement.

On Wednesday the government revoked the decision after the decision sparked deadly clashes in the country that killed 82 people in six days.

Meanwhile, talks aimed at ending Lebanon's protracted political crisis opened in Qatar on Friday.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani addressed rival Lebanese leaders at the opening session of the Doha talks and welcomed the Lebanese leaders and hoped for peace and security for the country.

"Let us deal with matters calmly at the dialogue table. Each one of us and them must offer concessions to bury strife," Walid Jumblatt, a key majority leader said upon arrival in Doha.

"The atmosphere is very positive," House Speaker Nabih Berri, a key member of the opposition told reporters in Doha.