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Lebanon to boycott Damascus summit
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The Lebanese cabinet officially decided Tuesday to boycott the upcoming 20th Arab summit to be held in Damascus on March 29-30, local LBC TV reported.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi made the announcement while reading a statement after a three-hour meeting, which also urged Arabs to tackle the deteriorating Lebanese-Syrian relations, according to LBC.

The government urged "Arab brethren to shepherd Lebanese-Syrian relations" to help Lebanon spread its sovereignty over its territories," the statement was quoted as saying.

The statement stressed that the decision is not tantamount to a breach of Lebanon's relations with Syria, but it reflects the need "to respect Lebanon's sovereignty and independence".

The decision was adopted in light of blocking presidential elections and Lebanon's determination to be represented at the summit by "the only Christian president among all Arab heads of state," the statement noted.

Local Naharnet news website also quoted Aridi as saying that Lebanon would also boycott preparatory meetings that set the stage for the summit that would convene in Damascus on March 29.

Relations between Syria and the ruling coalition in Lebanon has been deteriorating since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.

Syria was accused by Lebanon's ruling majority bloc of being responsible for the assassination, which forced Syria to pull out its troops from Lebanon after 29 years of military presence. But Damascus repeatedly denied the accusation.

The upcoming Arab summit should host heads of Arab states. But Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the Arab League Ahmad Qattan said Monday that he would lead his county's delegation to the summit.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have accused Syria of blocking the election of a new president in Lebanon in resolving the country's deep political crisis between the parliamentary majority and the opposition.

(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2008)

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