France calls for 'contact group' on Lebanon

14th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

France is calling for the creation of an international "contact group" on Lebanon to negotiate a settlement to the country's latest political crisis, a European diplomat said on Friday.

"The contact group would include Syria, Saudi Arabia, France, the United States, Qatar, Turkey and possibly other countries with a stake in Lebanon," the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

"The group would meet outside of Lebanon given the current tensions in the country," the diplomat added.

The contact group would be similar to the one set up in the 1990s to oversee Balkan peace-building after the former communist Yugoslavia splintered in a series of wars in the 1990s.

The idea was discussed in Paris on Thursday between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Lebanese premier Saad Hariri, whose government collapsed on Wednesday after the powerful Hezbollah and its allies pulled their ministers from the cabinet.

The move was linked to a long-running dispute over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is reportedly set to indict senior Hezbollah members in connection with the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, Saad's father.

The resignations came after a Saudi-Syrian bid to defuse tensions over the tribunal failed to find a compromise between the two rival camps.

Hariri is now heading a caretaker government pending the outcome of consultations between President Michel Sleiman and parliamentarians on the appointment of a new premier. The consultations are due to start on Monday.

© 2011 AFP

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