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Syria upbeat on Lebanon agreement

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem attends a news conference in Tehran in this April 23, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria supports a deal brokered by a Qatari-led Arab delegation that ended fighting in Lebanon and sees a “real opportunity” for the country, Syria’s foreign minister was quoted as saying on Friday.

Walid al-Moualem told the Lebanese as-Safir newspaper he had called the prime minister of Qatar and the secretary-general of the Arab League to congratulate them on the deal concluded on Thursday.

“We are absolutely with the initiative and we see it as a real opportunity,” Moualem said. “This step could be a real chance to save Lebanon from the dangers that threaten it.”

Syria supports the Hezbollah-led opposition, whose leaders are due to hold talks in Qatar on Friday aiming to end their protracted political standoff with the U.S.- and Saudi-backed governing coalition.

The political conflict turned violent last week when the government took decisions Hezbollah viewed as a declaration of war. The group, also backed by Iran, then routed supporters of the governing coalition in a military campaign.

The government rescinded the moves.

Syria dominated Lebanon until 2005, when the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri triggered international pressure that forced it to withdraw troops from its smaller neighbor.

The governing coalition accuse the Lebanese opposition of working to restore Syrian control.

Writing by Tom Perry