Lebanese Leader Asks Russia to Maintain Role in Region

Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri on Tuesday urged President Vladimir Putin to help resolve the troubled Middle Eastern nation's political deadlock over selection of its next president.

Rival parliamentary factions are to convene in Beirut on Wednesday to try electing President Emile Lahoud's successor, though it is unclear whether the assembly can muster the two-thirds needed to convene and begin voting.

"Russia has always sided with Lebanon. Today, we are again in need of Russia's assistance in overcoming the current crisis," Hariri was quoted by Interfax as telling Putin during a Kremlin meeting.

Attempts since September have failed to bring legislators from the U.S.-backed parliamentary majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition, supported by Syria and Iran, to agree on a compromise presidential candidate. Hariri, son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, called last month on Russia and China, which have close ties with Iran and Syria, to use their influence to prevent interference in the choice of a president.

Earlier Tuesday, Hariri met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and stressed the importance of strong Russian influence in the region.

"Lebanon, like the whole Arab world, is interested in maintaining Russia's role in the region," Hariri said.

Lavrov told Hariri that he hoped that after Wednesday's vote Lebanese politicians would have reached "national accord and unity."

Russia is a member of the Quartet, a grouping that includes the United States, the European Union and the United Nations trying to broker peace in the Middle East.