Sleiman leads high-powered team to Saudi Arabia

October 14, 2008 - 0:0

President Michel Sleiman arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday for talks with King Abdullah. A statement released by Sleiman's media office said that an initial meeting had focused on enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries.

Sleiman headed an official delegation which also included Deputy Premier Issam Abu Jamra, Education Minister Bahia Hariri, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi, Economy Minister Mohammad Safadi, and Minister of State Nassib Lahoud.
Sleiman's media office said the president would remain in Saudi Arabia for two days.
The kingdom was Sleiman's fifth foreign destination, since his election in late May, following earlier visits to France, Qatar, Syria, and the United States. The president is also expected to visit Egypt, Canada, and Iran in the coming weeks.
Also Sunday, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader MP Michel Aoun headed to Tehran for talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials.
Aoun told reporters before leaving from Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport that his visit was aimed at building friendly ties. ""Friendship with Iran is not an accusation,"" the former Lebanese Armed Forces commander said.
He was accompanied by MP Edgar Maalouf and senior FPM official Pierre Raffoul.
Former President Amin Gemayel also criticized Aoun for ""attacking Saudi Arabia on the eve of Sleiman's visit.""
Aoun said in a speech on Saturday that some Lebanese Christians were being swayed by Saudi petrodollars. Saudi Arabia is a major backer of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, a rival of the FPM leader.
Aoun also accused the March 14 alliance of depending on the United States and Saudi Arabia following Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005. ""The Syrians withdrew,"" he said, ""but dependence on Americans and Saudis continued.""