Source AP ©

US presence in Lebanon threatens country's stability

The U.S. bias for one side against the other in Lebanon’s internal politics brings instability to the country, Syria said Friday.

In a letter sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and published by the state-run news agency Thursday night, Syria said it respected Lebanese sovereignty and independence and was not interfering in Lebanon's presidential elections.

"The well known blatant foreign interference by a superpower, which has so far deepened divisions between the Lebanese... poses a direct threat to Lebanon's security and stability because it (U.S.) is clearly and openly siding with one Lebanese side after the other," the letter said.

Washington has backed Lebanon's anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, which is locked into a monthslong power struggle with the opposition, led by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group, an ally of Syria and Iran.

The Lebanese parliament failed to elect a president last month because of a boycott by the opposition, aimed at preventing Saniora's allies from installing an anti-Syrian candidate in the presidency. Lawmakers have been unsuccessful so far in efforts to reach agreement on a consensus candidate.

The parliament has scheduled another session on Oct. 23 to choose a successor to President Emile Lahoud, who steps down Nov. 24.

If the deadlock persists, some fear the country could end up with two rival governments, much like in the last two years of the country's 1975-1990 civil war.

Government supporters accuse Syria of seeking to eliminate Saniora's small majority in parliament before the election by targeting members of the ruling coalition for assassination. Eight prominent anti-Syrian figures have been killed in Lebanon since 2005.

Damascus has denied any involvement in the slayings.

U.S. President George W. Bush warned Syria last month against interfering in Lebanon's presidential elections.

In the letter, Syria launched a scathing attack on Saniora and other anti-Syrian leaders in Lebanon, accusing them of "harming Syria's image" and provoking Western countries against it.

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