Chairman of the Arab Summit, Sudanese President Omar al-Basheer, appealed on Tuesday for the stabilization of the relationship between Syria and Lebanon and rejected US pressure on Syria. "Out of solidarity, we have to look to Syria and Lebanon and suppor them in the face of pressure that Syria is facing through unjust laws … and we support a free will and independent decision for Lebanon," al-Basheer said.

The chairman of last year’s summit, Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, said that Syria and Lebanon enjoy "extraordinary ties." "As much as we are keen on revealing the truth about the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al Hariri, we also call on our brothers in Syria and Lebanon to maintain their brotherly close ties that bind the two brother nations since old times," Bouteflika said. The 18th Arab League Summit kicked off with key Arab leaders absent from the meetings that are expected to tackle a number of thorny regional issues. The Arab foreign ministers who met two days earlier to set the agenda of the summit had rejected any US or Israeli pressure on Syria and stressed Lebanon’s right to sovereignty.
The Arab ministers’ proposal comes following a visit by UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen to Lebanon during which he called on Syria to open an embassy in Lebanon in compliance with UN Security Council resolution 1559 which demanded Syrian troop withdrawal from its neighbour.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Fawzy Saloukh said in a statement to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the issue of diplomatic exchange between Syria and Lebanon has not yet been brought up. "We thank Mr. Terje Roed-Larsen but exchange of diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon concerns only these countries," Saloukh said. "Syrians welcome it and we do too but it should only be brought up at the appropriate moment."

Sources told dpa that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad al-Saniora held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, there was no official confirmation of the meeting.

© 2006 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur