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Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Sunday, 30 March 2008 12:35 UK

No Lebanon breakthrough for Arabs

The Lebanese delegation's seats remain empty at the start of the Arab summit on 29 March
Lebanon's seats remained empty at the start of the summit

An annual summit of the Arab League has ended in Syria's capital Damascus with a call for an end to the political crisis in Lebanon.

But correspondents say there were no specific proposals to solve the crisis, which has seen Lebanon without a president since November.

Only 11 heads of states from the 22-member organisation were present, as key pro-Western leaders stayed away.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan sent low-level delegations.

They blame Syria for the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon - a charge denied by the government in Damascus.

The Lebanese government boycotted the summit completely.

Meddling denied

In a final statement, the League called for a compromise candidate to be elected president, and a national unity cabinet formed, AFP news agency reported.

But the BBC's Heba Saleh in Damascus says there were no breakthroughs.

Opening the meeting, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied his country was meddling in Lebanon.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the summit in Damascus
Syria had billed the summit as a golden opportunity for Arab unity
He was responding to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who had accused Syria of preventing the election of a consensus president in Beirut.

Mr Assad said his country was willing to join "Arab or non-Arab efforts" to end Lebanon's political crisis "on condition that they are based on Lebanese national consensus".

But our correspondent says it will take more than words to convince his critics, and Syria risks further isolation if there is no immediate resolution to the Lebanon crisis.

In Riyadh, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, suggested Syria had not abided by the Arab consensus on Lebanon. "The problem is that what was decided unanimously in the Arab League, including by Syria, is not being carried out," he said.

The foreign minister called for ''counter-measures".

US blamed

Syria had billed the summit as a golden opportunity for regional unity but there is little sign of this, BBC Middle East correspondent Katya Adler reports from Damascus.

They [the US] did their best to prevent the summit but they failed
Walid Moualem
Syrian Foreign Minister

She says the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon are all staying at home because they view Syria as a trouble-maker, too close to Iran and a destructive force in Lebanon.

Syria has accused them in the past of being subservient to the US and Foreign Minister Walid Moualem has blamed Washington for trying to "divide the Arab world".

"They [the US] did their best to prevent the summit but they failed," Mr Moualem said on the eve of the summit.


video and audio news
The Syrian president calls for Arab unity



SEE ALSO
Boycott clouds Syrian Arab summit
29 Mar 08 |  Middle East
Lebanese leader condemns Syrians
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No comfort for Lebanon at Arab summit
27 Mar 08 |  Middle East
Profile: Arab League
21 Nov 07 |  Country profiles

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