French President arrives in Beirut
French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived Tuesday in Beirut as part of his Middle East tour to discuss the situation in Gaza and meet with French forces in southern Lebanon, reported dpa.
Sarkozy, arriving from Damascus, is scheduled to meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Foaud Seniora and House Speaker Nabih Berri at the Baabda presidential Palace north- east of Beirut.
His talks will focus on the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
He is due to visit his country's troops who are serving in the United Nations Interim Forces inn Southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) before leaving the Lebanese capital.
Shortly before Sarkozy's arrival, Israeli warplanes violated the Lebanese airspace, over the southern port city of Sidon and Naameh some 20 kilometers south of Beirut.
Earlier in Damascus, where he had met Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, Sarkozy again called for Mideast peace in the fact of the continuing conflict between Israel and the Islamist forces of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"Every party should deploy and exercise pressure on Hamas so that weapons should be quiet and silent," said Sarkozy, who has faulted Hamas for prompting the Israeli attack with a week of missile attacks into Israel after a ceasefire expired December 19.
He called on Syria to "convince Hamas to choose the voice of reason and the path of peace and the path of reconciliation."
However, Syria has long been a supporter of Hamas and is not willing to absolve Israel of blame for the ongoing conflict.
"The barbarian attacks on Gaza need to be stopped immediately," said Assad during the press conference. "What is happening in Gaza is a war crime and Israel will pay for it later."
Sarkozy started his four-day trip through the Middle East on Monday, calling for peace in the Middle East as he visited Egypt and Israel.