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Mideast Leaders to Discuss Lebanese Political Crisis


The leaders of Syria, Turkey and Qatar will gather in Damascus on Monday to discuss the political turmoil in Lebanon where last week the 14-month-old unity government collapsed.

Hezbollah triggered the latest Lebanese political crisis when its cabinet ministers resigned to protest a U.N. tribunal's investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The tribunal is expected to indict Hezbollah members in connection with the Hariri killing within a matter of days.

The discussions in Damascus come on the same day Lebanon's president, Michel Suleiman, will begin efforts to create a new government and reach a consensus among lawmakers on the selection of a prime minister.

In a related development, the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005 arrived in Damascus on Sunday. The Obama administration hopes career diplomat Robert Ford will be able to persuade the Syrian government to end its support for extremist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip.

Washington withdrew its Syrian ambassador just days after the car bombing in Beirut that ended Rafiq Hariri's life, an attack the U.S. blamed on Syria.

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