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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 12:52 GMT
Syria hits back in row with Paris
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem
Syria's Walid Muallem says France is unfairly blaming Damascus
Syria says it is halting co-operation with France on efforts to resolve the Lebanese political crisis.

The announcement was made by Syria's foreign minister, who denied French charges of interference in Lebanon.

On Sunday, President Nicolas Sarkozy said France was suspending diplomatic contacts with Damascus.

Mr Sarkozy said links would be restored once Syria provided proof it was not blocking progress towards installing a consensus president in Beirut.

On Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told reporters: "We were surprised to learn of the comments of the French president."

He accused Paris of trying to blame the failure of international efforts to resolve the Lebanese crisis on Syria.

Lebanon has been without a president since November, as rival factions argue over who should fill the post.

France has attempted to end the stalemate between the pro-Western government and the Syrian-backed opposition.

Agreement has been reached on a compromise presidential candidate - army commander General Michel Suleiman - but rival factions cannot agree on how to share power once he becomes president.

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