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Saudi, Syrian Effort Fails in Lebanon

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of slain former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, prays at his father's grave in downtown Beirut (file photo)

A prominent Lebanese leader says regional powers Syria and Saudi Arabia have failed to broker an agreement among Beirut's rival political factions over the investigation into the 2005 assassination of the country's former prime minister.

Lebanon is awaiting indictments from a U.N. tribunal investigation into the killing of Rafiq Hariri. Media reports say those indicted will likely include members of Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, which denies involvement, is demanding that the Lebanese government reject any U.N. findings. Saudi and Syrian officials, acting as intermediaries, have attempted to forge a compromise that would lessen the impact of the tribunal findings in Lebanon.

Michel Aoun, a Lebanese Christian opposition lawmaker and ally of Hezbollah, said Tuesday he had been officially informed of the initiative's failure, adding that members of the ruling majority were not responsive.

The negotiations had been touted by Lebanese and Arab leaders as one of the best hopes to defuse the country's political crisis.

Saudi Arabia and Syria, who traditionally back rival camps in Lebanon, have worked since July to calm the dispute over the U.N.-backed investigation. Earlier this week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his support for the tribunal.

In a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in New York Sunday, Mr. Ban said the panel probing the late prime minister's death is an independent body. A spokesman for Mr. Ban said the U.N. chief "hoped its work would help end impunity in Lebanon."

Mr. Hariri - the son of the slain prime minister - is facing intense political pressure at home because of the investigation, with Syrian- and Iran-backed Hezbollah calling on him to denounce the tribunal.

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

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