AFP: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday in Cairo that pressure had to be exerted on Syria and Iran to avoid a new war breaking out in Lebanon. CAIRO, July 29, 2007 (AFP) – French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday in Cairo that pressure had to be exerted on Syria and Iran to avoid a new war breaking out in Lebanon.
“Pressure is needed on the environment (of Lebanon), meaning that Syria and Iran must not exercise influence that could lead to war,” he said in a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit.
“Lebanon is difficult and complicated and with exterior influences, it has become one of the most difficult problems in the world,” he said during a visit to Egypt to brief other Arab foreign ministers about his Lebanon trip.
Earlier on Sunday, Kouchner gathered the representatives of Lebanon’s feuding factions around the same table but made little apparent headway to resolve the deepening political crisis in the country.
“There has been progress,” he maintained.
“The simple fact that thanks to our efforts… Lebanese from all communities are talking together — something they haven’t done for nine months — is a small progress… but still progress.”
“France is doing what it can but it cannot solve the problem in the place of the Lebanese,” he added.
“Many other countries are already involved which could have a very negative effect on what is going to happen in Lebanon.”
The resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shiite, sparked the current political standoff, the country’s worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Failure by the parties to resolve their differences in the coming weeks could spark a dangerous power vacuum or even the creation of two rival governments, plunging Lebanon into further chaos.
France has taken the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, gathering all the parties for a conference near Paris earlier this month and sending a top envoy to the region for consultations with all the key players.
The Shiite group Hezbollah, which is pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian, leads the opposition to the Western-backed government in Beirut. Last summer, it fought a devastating 34-day war with Israel.