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Updated: January 20, 2010 18:50 IST

US envoy says Lebanon will play key role in Middle-east peace

DPA
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U.S Middle East envoy George Mitchell, left, shakes hands with Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami, at the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut, on Tuesday. Mr. Mitchell arrived in Beirut for a two-day visit to meet with Lebanese officials and to talk about the Middle East peace process. Photo: AP.
U.S Middle East envoy George Mitchell, left, shakes hands with Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami, at the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut, on Tuesday. Mr. Mitchell arrived in Beirut for a two-day visit to meet with Lebanese officials and to talk about the Middle East peace process. Photo: AP.

George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, said on Wednesday that Lebanon will play a key role in building a comprehensive peace in the region.

Mr. Mitchell said there would be no lasting solution reached at Lebanon’s expense, according to a statement released by the US embassy, following the envoy’s talks with Lebanese officials.

The statement quoted Mr. Mitchell as saying, “Lebanon would play a key role in the long-term effort to build a lasting and comprehensive peace and stability in the Middle East.” Mr. Mitchell, who arrived in Beirut late Tuesday, told Prime Minister Saad Hariri that Washington “will not support the forced naturalization of Palestinians in Lebanon,” the embassy said.

There are some 367,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps across Lebanon.

Mr. Mitchell, accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Hale and Mitchell’s assistant, Frederick Hoff, also held talks on Wednesday with President Michel Suleiman and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

During the meetings, Mr. Mitchell reaffirmed the US commitment to a sovereign and independent Lebanon, the embassy statement added.

According to a government source, Mr. Mitchell told Lebanese officials that his tour to the region was aimed at giving fresh impetus to the peace process and President Barack Obama’s vision of peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Mitchell acknowledged that he was facing difficulties, according to the Lebanese daily An Nahar, but vowed to continue with his “difficult” mission.

The US envoy said he wanted to revive negotiations on the Palestinian-Israeli, Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks, the daily reported.

According to media reports, Mr. Mitchell said he would travel to Syria from Lebanon before heading to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Syria’s Baath newspaper said Mr. Mitchell’s tour “won’t change a thing” in the region.

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