Page last updated at 21:58 GMT, Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Lebanon not to attend Arab summit

By Mike Sargeant
BBC News, Beirut

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (c) chairs a cabinet meeting in Beirut (25/3/08)
The decision not to attend was made by the Lebanese cabinet

The Lebanese government has announced that it will boycott the Arab summit due to be held this weekend in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

A government minister said parliament's repeated failure to elect a president had made it impossible for Lebanon to attend the meeting.

Lebanon has been without a president since last November.

The Western-backed government blames Syria for the current deadlock, a charge Syria denies.

Political stalemate

The political system in Lebanon has been paralysed for months.

Pro- and anti-Syrian groups have repeatedly failed to elect a new president.

The government blames Syria - and its allies, including Hezbollah - for the stalemate.

Syria says the United States and Western-backed Arab countries are blocking progress.

With no agreement in sight, it was hard to see how Lebanon could attend the summit in Damascus, which begins on Saturday.

The pressure for a boycott increased after it emerged that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Mubarak of Egypt were not expected to go.

The absence of Lebanon - one of the founding members of the Arab League - will be awkward for Syria.

Boycotts are not unprecedented at these meetings, but this issue could now overshadow all other business at the summit.

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