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Egypt mediates between Saudi and Syria

CAIRO, March 2 (UPI) -- Arab diplomats said Egypt is trying to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Syria to close their chasm ahead of the Riyadh Arab summit later this month.

Diplomats in Cairo told United Press International that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke to Syrian President Bashar Assad after the first held talks with Saudi King Abdullah during a visit to Riyadh Wednesday.

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"Mubarak relayed to Assad the Saudi desire to see more positive Syrian stands towards efforts exerted by Riyadh to resolve the various issues in the region, especially the Lebanese crisis," said one diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Saudi-Syrian diplomatic tension was triggered last summer when Assad sharply criticized Arab leaders who denounced Lebanon's Hezbollah abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border operation last summer, prompting a 34-day war. While he did not name them, Assad was clearly alluding to Saudi Arabia, which had described the Hezbollah move as an "uncalculated adventure."

The diplomat said Mubarak will meet the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Syria during an Arab foreign ministers meeting Sunday in Cairo to bring their views closer.

He stressed that Riyadh is seeking to push Damascus to help resolve the Lebanese political crisis, where the Syrian-backed opposition, led by Hezbollah, is objecting to the special international court trying the suspects involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Saudi Arabia, the source warned, will not accept any Syrian position that falls short of supporting international efforts to form the tribunal, saying this might reflect negatively on the Arab summit to be held later this month in the Saudi capital.

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