assad - AP - October 17 2010
Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, October 17, 2010. Photo by AP
Text size

The leaders of Mideast rivals Syria and Saudi Arabia met Sunday to discuss rising tension in Lebanon that threatens to break apart that country's coalition government and spark unrest in one of the most volatile corners of the region.

The two countries back opposing factions in Lebanon and are concerned that a UN tribunal's investigation of the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could split its shaky governing coalition.

Saudi Arabia was close to Hariri and supports political forces loyal to his son, Saad, who is Lebanon's current prime minister. Syria, which dominated Lebanon for decades, backs Hezbollah, the powerful militant group that shares power in Lebanon's government.

Rafik Hariri was killed in a massive truck bombing in Beirut in February 2005 that many in Lebanon blamed on Syria. Syria denies involvement.

The official Saudi new agency reported that the talks between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Saudi King Abdullah touched on the tensions over the investigation but gave no details.

The U.N. tribunal is expected to indict Hezbollah members this year, raising concerns of possible violence between the Shiite force and Hariri's allies most of whom are Sunni.

Sunday's meeting in the Saudi capital reflected growing cooperation between the one-time bitter rivals. The two Mideast power brokers often position themselves on opposite sides of regional issues and conflicts.

In June, the two leaders sought to put the enmity to rest and traveled together to Lebanon to address the rising discord there.