Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Lebanese President Sleiman discuss in Riyadh Lebanese, regional, international developments

President Sleiman says Lebanon’s stability causes concerns to Israel, stresses unity

Prime Minister Hariri tackles with Kuwait leaders regional issues, historic support for Lebanon

Rafiq Hariri murder probe making progress

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman co-chaired talks held by the two sides.

At the outset of the session, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques welcomed the president wishing him and the accompanying delegation good stay in the kingdom.

The president thanked the king for the hospitality.

The talks focused on regional and international issues and Saudi-Lebanese relations.

The session was attended by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, other princes and senior officials.

King Abdullah held a dinner banquet in honor of visiting Lebanese President Suleiman and the accompanying delegation.

The banquet was attended Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, other princes and senior officials.

Sleiman held talks with Abdullah on his second visit since May last year to the oil-rich kingdom which is a major powerbroker in Lebanon, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

The news agency gave few details of Saturday evening's talks.

The two leaders discussed "the latest regional and international developments" and ways of strengthening ties, it said.

They also discussed improving policy coordination during Lebanon's tenure of the Arab seat on the UN Security Council until next year, it added.

Saudi Arabia has been a key backer of the parliamentary majority of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in its competition with the rival Hezbollah-led minority bloc supported by Iran and Syria.

A former army chief, Sleiman was chosen as president in May last year as a compromise between the rival alliances.

Saudi Arabia is also a major financial backer of debt-ridden Lebanon.

Later on Sunday, Sleiman met Lebanese expatriates and visit the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the first mixed university in the conservative Muslim Kingdom.

Sleiman's visit to Saudi Arabia came as the Lebanese prime minister visited its neighbor Kuwait and delivered an appeal to expatriates there to invest their money and skills in Lebanon.

Sleiman stressed Sunday the need to promote several reforms starting with the electoral law and the adoption of proportional representation to pave the way for the abolition of political sectarianism.

“We need to exit all forms of political sectarianism; we are proud of the participation of religious factions in Lebanon but we do not want political sectarianism and this can only be achieved through gradual steps starting with the electoral law,” Sleiman said at the end of a two-day official visit to Saudi Arabia.

Earlier Saturday, Sleiman discussed with Saudi King Abdullah the latest regional and international developments as both leaders agreed to boost Lebanese-Saudi coordination, particularly under the current regional circumstances.

“Both leaders discussed improving policy coordination during Lebanon’s tenure of the Arab seat on the UN Security Council until next year,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday. Lebanon was elected as a non-permanent UN Security Council for the upcoming two years.

Addressing Lebanese expatriates at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Sleiman accused Israel of seeking to instigate civil strife among the Lebanese. “We should consider Israeli threats carefully since Israel seek to instigate divisions and strife among the Lebanese through threats which some Lebanese support resisting while other don’t,” Sleiman said.

Tackling the National Dialogue talks due to resume on Tuesday, Sleiman said discussions would take place away from the media while stressing that it was the Lebanese Army’s responsibility to respond to Israeli aggression. “If the army fails, then every citizen becomes a militant against Israel,” Sleiman added.

Sleiman also highlighted contradiction between Lebanon and Israel as the latter sought to enforce a Jewish state while Lebanon sought to promote democracy among its different religious factions. “We are proud in the participation of religious factions [in governance] in Lebanon but we reject political sectarianism in all its forms,” Sleiman added.

“In 2009, Lebanon regained its health and made a big step toward establishing security and stability and I urge for investing in the country since its economic situation is promising,” he said.

“The Lebanese will not forget the stances by the kingdom toward Lebanon at times of peace and war as well as its essential decisions which helped Lebanon overcome a situation and move to another,” Sleiman said following talks with King Abdullah earlier Saturday.

Sleiman also stressed the importance of strengthening Arab unity and highlighted the need to pursue efforts to reach a comprehensive peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative.

Later Sunday, Sleiman arrived in Beirut ending his second official visit to the kingdom, the last in May, 2009, a year after his election as a consensus president.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Saad Hariri returned home late Sunday from an official two-day visit to Kuwait where talks focused on exerting efforts to put an end to Israeli threats against Lebanon.

On Sunday, Hariri met with the Kuwaiti Emir for over an hour. The two leaders discussed regional and global issues in addition to bilateral relations and ways to boost ties.

Hariri has briefed Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah on the Lebanese situation since formation of a national unity government all the way to improvement of Lebanese-Syrian relations.

He also touched on national dialogue on the eve of all-party talks scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

Hariri pointed out that Lebanon was exerting efforts to seek global help in putting an end to Israeli threats.

He hailed Kuwaiti efforts and stressed that Lebanon will be the "voice of the Arabs and defender of Arab issues in the Security Council."

Sheikh Sabah, in turn, stressed Kuwaiti support for Lebanon at all levels.

Hariri also met with Kuwaiti Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi and PM Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed.

He said Lebanon and Kuwait agreed to form joint ministerial committees that would "start coordinating meetings to find ways to improve cooperation, particularly at the economic and commercial levels."

Hariri said he agreed with Kharafi to promote parliamentary cooperation between the two country's legislatures.

Lebanon and Kuwait also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the fields of exhibitions and a protocol of cooperation in the field of attracting foreign direct investment and a memorandum of understanding on industrial cooperation.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Sunday a report published by a UN tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of his former premier father gave hope the killers will be identified.

"The report gives us hope," Hariri told reporters on a visit to Kuwait. "The report is an indication to the credibility of the tribunal.

"The report shows the tribunal needs more time to reach the truth, and the Lebanese government and people should wait," he added.

The Hague-based tribunal was set up by a UN Security Council resolution in 2007 to try suspects in the murder of Rafiq Hariri, killed in a massive bomb blast on the Beirut seafront in February 2005.

In its first annual report published on Saturday, the tribunal said investigators were getting closer to identifying the suicide bomber who carried out the attack.

The report said the prosecutor had "made significant progress towards building a case which will bring perpetrators to justice".

Prosecutors were "getting closer to identifying the suspected suicide bomber by narrowing down the individual's geographic origin and partially reconstructing the individual's face", the report said.

The bombing was widely blamed on Syria although Damascus has denied any involvement. A UN commission of inquiry said it had found evidence to implicate Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services but there are no suspects in custody.

Hariri, who arrived in Kuwait on Saturday for a two-day visit, held talks with Kuwait's emir and the prime minister on boosting relations and Kuwaiti aid to Lebanon.

UN officials investigating the murder five years ago of Lebanon's former premier Rafiq Hariri said Saturday they were getting closer to identifying the suicide bomber who carried out the attack.

Antonio Cassese, head of the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, said the probe had carried out more than 280 interviews since it began work in March last year.

The tribunal's first annual report, published on Saturday, said the prosecutor had "made significant progress towards building a case which will bring perpetrators (of the attack) to justice."

Prosecutors were "getting closer to identifying the suspected suicide bomber by narrowing down the individual’s geographic origin and partially reconstructing the individual’s face", the report said.

The Hague-based tribunal was set up by a UN Security Council resolution in 2007 to try suspects in the murder of Hariri, killed in a massive bomb blast on the Beirut seafront in February 2005.

The bombing was widely blamed on Syria although Damascus has denied any involvement. A UN commission of inquiry said it had found evidence to implicate Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services but there are no suspects in custody.