BEIRUT, January 7 (RIA Novosti) – Former army commander and prime minister of Lebanon Michel Aoun said in an interview with RIA Novosti Sunday that cooperation between Russia and the U.S. is important for the world as a whole, including the Middle East."Russia is now not a side in the conflict, it plays the role of helper in funding the needed solutions, and this is right," he said.

"The arms race [between the U.S. and the Soviet Union] and creating threats for one another has become a thing of the past, and there is now an exchange of interests, a mutually complementary search for important solutions, which is having a positive effect on the world as a whole, particularly in the Middle East region," Aoun said.On Russia’s role in the Middle East in recent years, General Aoun said, "Moscow has no direct influence on events in Lebanon, but it is capable of significantly altering the progress of events in the region with its membership of the UN Security Council, as a state with a veto right."Aoun said Russia is attempting to reduce international pressure on Lebanon’s neighbor Syria, without imposing any conditions on its leadership. "Russia defends Syria to give it another chance, but Syria should, in its turn, pass a lot of tests to justify this relationship," he said.

 Aoun became Lebanon’s top army commander in 1984 before becoming interim prime minister in 1988.

The general was sacked as prime minister in 1989, but refused to leave his position and launched a rebellion against the occupying Syrians in Beirut. Thousands died in the conflict, and Aoun was forced into exile.

He returned to Lebanon in 2005 for the first time in 15 years soon after Syrian troops left Lebanon. Aoun has resumed a prominent political role in the country, and is viewed by some as a likely future president.