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France to "suspend contact" with Syria over Lebanon

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France to "suspend contact" with Syria over Lebanon
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced he plans to suspend contacts with Syria. Links will be restored only when Paris has proof that Damascus is not blocking efforts to appoint a consensus President in Lebanon.

Speaking in Egypt after talks with President Hosni Mubarak, Sarkozy said he had no regrets about his previous contact with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the French leader said the time had come for action, not words:

“Syria has to stop talking and start demonstrating and I will not get in touch with the Syrians until we have the proof that the Syrians will leave Lebanon to choose a President of consensus”.

Lebanon has been without a President since last November due to disputes between Lebanon’s pro-western government and its pro-Syrian opposition over who should be given the job.

France has mediated between the two sides and agreement has settled on army chief General Michel Suleiman. But the rival factions cannot agree on how power will be shared once he is in office. The French President’s declaration has been interpreted by analysts as a way of putting pressure on Damascus.