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Saudi Arabia Blames Iran for Lebanon Violence


Saudi Arabia has blamed Iran for what it calls the recent coup attempt in Lebanon and has called on all regional states not to interfere in Lebanon's political affairs.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, told reporters Tuesday that Iran's support for the violence in Lebanon could affect its relations with all Arab and Islamic countries. Iran and Syria are known to support Lebanon's militant Shi'ite Hezbollah opposition.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the Saudi foreign minister's comments, saying Iran is the only country not interfering in Lebanon.

The comments were made as Lebanon's army announced it will now use force to stop fighting between pro-government militias and opposition forces led by Hezbollah.

So far, Lebanon's military has stayed out of the violence that began Wednesday in Beirut and spread to other parts of the country. The fighting has killed at least 62 people and wounded at least 200.

The sectarian fighting is the worst the country has seen since the civil war that ended in 1990.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a joint statement with 10 nations Monday calling for an immediate end to the violence. The so-called "Friends of Lebanon" group includes the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East (Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Spain).

The group urged gunmen to withdraw from Lebanon's streets, unblock roads and allow Beirut's airport to reopen. It also expressed support for Lebanon's pro-Western ruling coalition and the Lebanese army.

In a separate statement Monday, U.S. President George Bush accused Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of working together to, in his words, "bend the Lebanese government and people to their will."

Mr. Bush said the international community will not allow Iran and Syria to use proxies to return Lebanon to foreign domination. He also said Washington will continue aiding the Lebanese military to ensure that it can defend the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Lebanese officials say they expect an Arab League delegation to arrive in Beirut Wednesday to try to mediate an end to the fighting.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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