By Hussein Abdallah,  BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman was quoted by his visitors on Sunday as denying that his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, asked him during their recent bilateral summit in Damascus to send the Lebanese Armed Forces’ 10th Brigade to "fight extremism" in Tripoli. The visitors said that Sleiman also denied that he made any commitments to Assad regarding Lebanon’s joining of peace negotiations between Syria and Israel. Assad said last week that he had asked Sleiman, who visited Damascus in August, to "urgently send more troops" to North Lebanon to combat what he called "extremism."  "Anything positive in Lebanon would be worthless without a solution to the problem of extremism and Salafists in North Lebanon who are officially supported by some countries," he said, without identifying them.  "We are worried about what is happening in Tripoli," he told  a four-way summit that grouped French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.  The Syrian head of state also said that he had discussed with Sleiman the need for Lebanon to take part in negotiations with Israel when such talks reach the stage of direct negotiations. Syria and Israel are engaged in Turkish-sponsored indirect peace talks.  Sleiman’s visitors quoted the president as saying that he was not planning to respond to any of Assad’s remarks during the four-way summit.

Also on Sunday, news reports quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Assad’s remarks on Lebanon annoyed both Sheikh Hamad and Sarkozy.  The reports said that the Qatari emir expressed reservations over Assad’s assessment of the situation in Lebanon, which the latter had described as "fragile."  A senior French source was also quoted by the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat as saying that Assad had complained to Sarkozy that some Lebanese factions were not ready to establish normal relations with Syria.  The source said Sarkozy had told Assad that Syria needed to implements its commitments toward Lebanon in order to build confidence.  On Saturday, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar described Assad’s remarks as "insulting" for Lebanon’s president and government. He told Voice of Lebanon radio that Sleiman had not informed Cabinet of any such  comments by Assad during the summit in Damascus.  "I don’t think that our president was hiding this information … He is definitely not a keeper of Assad’s secrets," Najjar added, implying that the Syrian leader’s claims were untrue. – With AFP