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Rice arrives in Beirut on surprise visit


Beirut : US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived Monday in Beirut on a surprise visit, officials said.

Rice was scheduled to meet President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Seniora in a trip that follows her weekend visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in a bid to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Rice said following the election of president May 25 that she looked forward to working with Suleiman.

“We very much look forward to working with the new president of Lebanon. We have long supported his election,” Rice was quoted as saying.

“I’m very glad for the Lebanese people in particular that it’s finally taken place. He is someone we believe will defend Lebanon’s interests, Lebanon’s independence, Lebanon’s sovereignty and Lebanon’s democracy.”

Suleiman, Lebanon’s army chief for the past 10 years, became head of state following a deal brokered in Qatar to resolve a long-running political crisis in Lebanon.

The accord was reached after sectarian battles in May left at least 85 people dead and saw the radical Shia movement Hezbollah stage a spectacular takeover of Sunni Muslim sectors of west Beirut.