Hariri urges Putin to help block Iranian, Syrian meddling in Lebanese election

200711202214530_1-haririnew.jpgParliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri headed for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after holding a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and urging his host to help resolve the troubled country’s political deadlock over the selection of its next head of state.

As foreign diplomats continue their rounds of meetings with rival Lebanese leaders over the presidential election, Hariri headed to Moscow and then Riyadh on Tuesday.

“Russia has always sided with Lebanon. Today, we are again in need of Russia’s assistance in overcoming the current crisis,” Hariri was quoted by Interfax as telling Putin during a Kremlin meeting.

Hariri, son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, called last month on Russia and China, which have close ties with Iran and Syria, to use their influence to prevent interference in the choice of a president.

Putin on Tuesday promised Hariri that he would hold “immediate” talks with Iran and Syria to facilitate Lebanon’s presidential elections.

A statement released by Hariri’s press office quoted Putin as telling the Lebanese MP during their meeting in a Moscow suburb that Russia supports the holding of presidential election in Lebanon within the constitutional timeframe.

Putin, the statement added, noted that failure to hold the election on time “would hurt Lebanon and Russia rejects this.”

“Putin promised Hariri that he would hold immediate contacts with Iran and Syria to this effect,” the statement added.

Earlier Tuesday, Hariri met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who expressed his hope that Lebanon would overcome the political deadlock over electing the next president.

Lavrov told Hariri he hoped that by Wednesday, when rival parliamentary factions are to convene in a bid to elect President Emile Lahoud’s successor, politicians would have reached “national accord and unity.”

“Our meeting was useful and focused on finding the best way to help Lebanon come out of its crisis and elect a president that would help preserve its national unity and independence,” Lavrov told reporters after meeting Hariri.

In return, Hariri said, “Lebanon, like the whole Arab world, is interested in maintaining Russia’s role in the region.”

Putin made a landmark visit to Iran last month and has moved to reinforce Russian ties with Syria, a Soviet-era ally.

Russia is a member of the “Quartet” for Middle East peace, alongside the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, which is trying to broker peace in the Middle East.

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