Lebanese President to skip Arab Summit

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Emile Lahoud

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said he will not be attending the upcoming Arab summit scheduled for Monday. The announcement was made Saturday after a car bomb in the early morning hours wrecked a six-story apartment building, causing injuries, but there have been no reports of deaths.

It is not clear at this time who is responsible for the bombing. Both the Lebanese and Syrian governments denied any involvement. There was an accusation, reported by Reuters on Sat Mar 19, 2005 12:27 PM ET, made by key opposition leader, Walid Jumblatt, saying, "The security agencies belong to it (meaning Syria). There is no other explanation. When security agencies come under Lebanese control it will be another matter." The opposition wants Syrian military and intelligence agents out of the country and opposes the pro-Syrian Lahoud and Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The violence threatens efforts by opposition groups and pro-government groups to build consensus and stability before the upcoming national election in May. Mr. Lahoud's office released a statement today that read: "The president affirms the need for such a dialogue meeting starting today in any place they agree on, including the presidential palace, which will keep its doors open."

The president's invitation was dismissed by an opposition legislator. The AP reports Fares Soeid saying, "It's too late. This subject is closed."

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