BEIRUT: In a flurry of diplomatic activity Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador David Hale held talks with Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who had returned a day earlier from Saudi Arabia.
Hale met with Bassil in the afternoon after a morning meeting between the two was postponed for security reasons, the National News Agency reported. The meeting lasted 40 minutes, and Hale, who also handed Bassil a letter from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left the Foreign Ministry without making any comments.
Hale also visited Siniora at the head of Future bloc's residence and discussed the situation in Lebanon, the state-run news agency said.
Hours later, Bassil also met with French Ambassador Patrice Paoli.
The meetings come only a day after Bassil held a “lengthy” discussion with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud bin al-Faisal in Riyadh about means to hold the presidential election within the constitutional timeframe, An-Nahar reported.
With expectations low for any breakthrough in Thursday’s scheduled electoral session in Parliament, Lebanese officials are racing against time before President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ends on May 25.
Lawmakers from MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc, Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have boycotted the last three scheduled sessions in a bid to pressure their March 14 rivals to agree beforehand on a consensus candidate for the presidency.
Aoun, Bassil’s father-in-law, appears to be waiting for a final answer from former PM Saad Hariri as to whether he will support the FPM leader for the country’s Christian post.
Prior to his meeting with Hale, Bassil met with ambassadors from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.
The envoys stressed their commitment to helping Lebanon face the crisis of the Syrian refugee influx, offering to host more Syrians in their own countries.
Swedish Ambassador Nicklas Kebbon said the meeting with Bassil aimed to express the willingness of these countries to continue assisting Lebanon with the refugee crisis.
He said Sweden was already hosting 40,000 Syrian refugees, adding that his country and the other nations represented by their ambassadors in the meeting were ready to welcome more Syrians.
Lebanon is hosting over a million Syrian refugees.
The country has previously appealed for funds to help the government deal with the refugee crisis.