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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 12:42 GMT
Lebanon PM rejects civil war fear
Fouad Siniora visits Downing Street (19 February 2008)
Fouad Siniora met UK PM Gordon Brown in London on Tuesday
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said a civil war is unlikely to happen in his country, but blames the opposition for taking it to the brink.

He told the BBC that groups such as Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, were trying to destabilise Lebanon to gain concessions from the government.

Lebanon has not had a president since November due to a row over candidates.

He also said he could not confirm any of the theories about the killing of Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh.

But Mr Siniora said he was drawn towards the idea that Israel might have been involved in the car bombing in the Syrian capital, Damascus, last week.

Israel has rejected the accusations while publicly welcoming news of the death.

Deadlock

In an interview with the BBC during a visit to London, Mr Siniora said he did not believe a civil war would happen in Lebanon, despite the country having been in a state of political paralysis for more than a year.

"I don't think so... although there are many players who try to approach the brink and the point of danger in order to exercise more of a black veil, so as to achieve more and more concessions," he told BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Definitely we need a solution yesterday, but... not at any price, where we would be sacrificing our sovereignty, independence and way of life as a liberal society
Fouad Siniora

Mr Siniora said Lebanese opposition groups realised civil war would not achieve anything, but nevertheless sought to trigger one by advocating disorder and seeking to topple his pro-Western government.

"And it's not in the interest of Syria at the end of the day, and definitely it's not in the interest of Iran, because the civil war in Lebanon is going to spill over everywhere else in the Arab and Muslim worlds," he added.

Mr Siniora said Lebanon urgently needed a solution to the dispute over the presidential election, which was postponed earlier this month for the 14th time, and the appointment of a new coalition government.

"Definitely we need a solution yesterday, but... not at any price, where we would be sacrificing our sovereignty, independence and way of life as a liberal society."

The latest event to increase the tension was the assassination last Tuesday in Damascus of Imad Mughniyeh, said to be a commander of Hezbollah's military wing, he said.

Mr Siniora said he had heard many of the theories about who was behind the killing, but could not confirm any of them.

"I think that the one that appears to be floating more than the others is that the Israelis are the ones who really killed him but again, definitely I'm not in a position to confirm any of this," he said.



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