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The New Arab

Lebanese president receives Syrian regime envoy

Aoun's allies include Shia movements Hizballah and Amal [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 7 November, 2016

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Highlighting the close ties between Lebanon's new President Michel Aoun and the Syrian regime, the leader met with a delegation sent by Bashar al-Assad on Monday.
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun received a delegation from the Syrian regime on Monday, in a move likely to stoke fears of Damascus' growing influence in the country.

Aoun sat down with a delegation sent by President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian ambassador at his palace in Beirut.

Assad's envoy Mansour Azzam delivered a "congratulatory message" from the Syrian president to Aoun, and emphasised the "deep ties" between Lebanon and Syria, according to Hizballah media outlet al-Manar.

It is believed to be the first official meeting between the two countries since 2013.

Lebanon was without a president for over two years until parliament agreed to make Aoun the country's new leader last Monday.

The power vacuum highlighted the factitious nature of Lebanese politics, with parties generally split into pro-Iranian and more West-leaning factions.

Once Damascus' enemy in Lebanon, Aoun sided with powerful Tehran-backed movement Hizballah, which has sent thousands of Lebanese Shia fighters to Syria to prop up the regime.

Hizballah has been behind Aoun's candidacy for president, but was tied in deadlock until the recent acquiescence of the Future Movement and others in the anti-Damascus' March 14 movement.

This weekend, Hizballah's leader Hassan Nasrallah congratulated Aoun's appointment, but dismissed a clandestine alliance between the Shia movement and the Maronite Christian president.

"We were honest since the very beginning in our endorsement of Michel Aoun as president, and we spared no effort for the election to achieve its goals," Nasrallah said. 

President Hafez al-Assad - Bashar's father - led the Syrian army into a 19 year occupation of Lebanon, which contributed to Damascus' isolation from the West.

Syrian troops left shortly after huge anti-Damascus protests erupted, when Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was killed in a bombing by suspected Syrian operatives.

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