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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
UN chief urges Lebanon dialogue
Ban Ki-moon with honour guard in Beirut
Mr Ban is meeting figures from both sides of Lebanon's divide
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Lebanon's leaders to engage in dialogue to end months of tension that has led to a political crisis.

Speaking in the capital, Beirut, Mr Ban said that achieving stability and unity in Lebanon was one of his priorities.

Mr Ban has met Syrian-backed opposition figures and will meet the PM as well as parliament majority leader Saad Hariri.

The death of Mr Hariri's father, Rafik, is a key cause of divisions and is the subject of an ongoing UN inquiry.

Rafik Hariri was killed by a car bomb in February 2005.

The UN investigation has so far implicated Syrian intelligence officials, although Damascus has denied any involvement.


The current crisis stems back to November when six pro-Syrian ministers quit over a UN tribunal to try Hariri murder suspects.

Mr Ban said Lebanese leaders should engage in "dialogue" to reach "national reconciliation".

He has already met Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament and an influential leader of the Syrian-backed opposition.

Mr Ban will later meet pro-Syrian Hezbollah official Mohammed Fneish, one of the six ministers who resigned.

On the other side of the divide, the secretary general will meet Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Saad Hariri.

Ways to end the crisis and the future of the international Hariri tribunal will be key to all the talks.

"I emphasised our commitment to the establishment of the tribunal of Lebanon as soon as possible," Mr Ban said after meeting Mr Berri.

Outrage following Rafik Hariri's death forced Syria to end its 29 years of military domination of Lebanon.

On Saturday, Mr Ban is scheduled to travel to southern Lebanon to meet UN peacekeepers in place since the end of the Hezbollah-Israel conflict last summer.

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