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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 July 2007, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
France fears new war in Lebanon
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, left, shakes hands with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (27 July, 2007)
Mr Kouchner (L) is meeting the PM and the leaders of other groups
The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, has warned that Lebanon faces the danger of renewed war if there is not a resumption of political dialogue.

Mr Kouchner is in Lebanon, meeting representatives of rival factions in an effort to break the months of political deadlock in the country.

He spoke after meeting pro-Western PM Fouad Siniora and Nabih Berri, the pro-Syrian parliamentary leader.

Mr Kouchner later held talks with Hezbollah, which leads the opposition.

His two-day visit is a follow-up to a conference France hosted earlier this month.

So far, every attempt to bring Lebanon's feuding political factions to the table has failed.

'Necessary dialogue'

Mr Kouchner said some progress had been made in his talks, "but that does not mean everything has been settled. Far from it.

"If the Lebanese do not resume this necessary dialogue, unfortunately there will be more war."

Lebanese officials say Mr Kouchner suggested that the rival parties discuss electing a new president and forming a government of national unity.

The two sides are still deeply divided, with tensions expected to escalate in the next few months over the who succeeds the Christian and pro-Syrian President, Emile Lahoud, when his term expires later this year.

Unity government

Syria and Iran would like a president that supports their interests while the US and Europe are backing Prime Minister Siniora and his Western-leaning government, says the BBC's Christian Fraser in Beirut.

Lebanon has been deadlocked since November when the Shia Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Syria and Iran, withdrew from the cabinet demanding a unity government in which it would have the power of veto.

The French have also been consulting several Arab countries concerned with the Lebanese crisis, including Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to try to find backing for a solution.

During earlier talks the Syrians are said to have told the French a solution must begin with the formation of a unity government before any agreement on a new president can be found.

But the anti-Syrian Mr Siniora has already signalled that changing the make-up of the government before electing the new president would make it much harder to find a compromise candidate.

Mr Kouchner is playing a patient game, says our correspondent, but the answers to Lebanon's problems may lie further afield, in Damascus, Washington and Tehran.




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