Syrian-Lebanese summit overshadowed by deadly Tripoli bomb
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman made a landmark visit to Damascus on Wednesday for talks with Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad aimed at establishing diplomatic relations for the first time. A Syrian official said the two leaders agreed to establish full diplomatic relations. Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, conveyed the decision was made Wednesday during meetings in Damascus.
Hours before Sleiman flew in, a bomb went off in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, killing at least 14 people, nine of them soldiers, and wounding 40 others.
Syria condemned the bomb attack, saying it supports Lebanon "against the hands that try to mess with its security and stability," according to a statement by the foreign ministry in Damascus. "Syria strongly denounces the criminal act perpetrated this morning in Tripoli that killed many innocent civilians."
"Syria expresses its regrets and condolences to the families of the victims and affirms its sympathy and solidarity with brotherly Lebanon in the face of all those who are manipulating its security and stability," it said.
Sleiman is the first Lebanese president to visit Damascus since Syria withdrew its forces from Lebanon in April 2005 ending almost three decades of military domination.
Sleiman, a former army chief elected by parliament in May, was given a red-carpet welcome by Assad at the People's Palace overlooking Damascus ahead of a first round of talks.
The official Syrian daily Tishrin hailed the Lebanon-Syria summit and expected "past mistakes to be overcome... by establishing diplomatic relations" which it said must be based on "respect, friendship and coordination."
The government paper Ath-Thawra said that "Syria will listen carefully to Michel Suleiman. There will be a dialogue capable of solving all pending issues."