Fletcher Expresses Concern over Lebanesse Fighters' Role in Syria

British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher expressed concern on Friday over the involvement of Lebanese fighters in battles in Syria, voicing the international community's hope that Lebanon would have carried out elections on time.

"It is of great sadness that Iran is now sending sons of Lebanon to die for (Syrian President Bashar) Assad," Fletcher said after talks with Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati at the Grand Serail.

He called on "those who care about Lebanese national interests" to apply neutrilty.

"We have a battle ahead to keep Lebanon out of the war," the British diplomat said.

Hizbullah's involvement in Syria has raised fears the conflict could spill over into Lebanon, where deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime have periodically erupted in the northern city of Tripoli.

Syria has long been a crucial conduit for arms supplied to Hizbullah by Iran. Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and some Palestinian groups view themselves as an axis of "resistance" against Israel and the West.

Concerning the extension of the parliaments term by around 17 months, Fletcher said: "We understand the tough context but it is well known that the international community hoped that elections would take place.”

Rival parties have failed to agree on an electoral law to govern the June 16 parliamentary elections and the majority of them opposed the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 polls.

The lack of consensus compelled them to agree on an extension despite differences on the duration. Some blocs are backing a 15-month extension while others are backing an 17-month period.

Fletcher pointed out that Lebanon has been a “democratic talisman in the region... I know that one day we will see Lebanon play that role again."

“It is more important than ever that we all support the army, dialogue, and PM-designate Tammam Salam's efforts to form a consensus government," he added.

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