Iran General NewsIran, Gulf foreign ministers meet in Damascus

Iran, Gulf foreign ministers meet in Damascus

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Reuters: The foreign ministers of Iran, Oman, Qatar and Syria held an unannounced meeting in the Syrian capital on Saturday ahead of an Arab summit clouded by the crisis in Lebanon. DAMASCUS (Reuters) – The foreign ministers of Iran, Oman, Qatar and Syria held an unannounced meeting in the Syrian capital on Saturday ahead of an Arab summit clouded by the crisis in Lebanon.

Witnesses said the four met at a restaurant near the city’s international airport. The Iranian and Qatari ministers left Damascus immediately afterwards. No details were immediately available.

Qatar and Oman have resisted Saudi pressure to boycott the March 29-30 summit of Arab leaders in Damascus to protest at what Riyadh says is Syria’s role in prolonging the 16-month political crisis in Lebanon.

Damascus blames Saudi Arabia and the United States for failure to reach a solution in Lebanon — where political deadlock has blocked the election of a new president — and says the summit could provide a venue to discuss the issue.

However several Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah, are expected to stay away unless the crisis in Lebanon is first resolved.

Underscoring anger with Syria, Saudi Arabia has not declared a replacement for its ambassador in Damascus, who left upon the end of his term last month.

Riyadh and Damascus support rival camps in a power struggle which has left Lebanon without a president since November.

Saudi Arabia backs the parliamentary majority headed by Sunni billionaire politician Saad al-Hariri, son of late premier Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in Beirut in 2005.

Syria and its ally Iran support Lebanon’s Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, which leads the opposition.

A rare public disagreement erupted between Iran and Syria after Syria denied an Iranian announcement that Tehran was taking part in a Syrian investigation into the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyah in Damascus on Feb 12.

Tehran and Hezbollah said Israel was behind the assassination of the top military operative. Damascus said it would swiftly announce the conclusion of the investigation, but no results have yet been made public.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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