William Hague will not go to Lebanon

By Martin Bright, January 27, 2011

Foreign Secretary William Hague was forced to cancel a planned trip to Lebanon this week after officials decided that the country remained in too much of a state of "flux".

The country's new Hizbollah-backed Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, was still in the process of forming his government as Mr Hague left for a visit to the Middle East on Wednesday. Sunnis opposed to Hezbollah's links to Shia Iran took to the streets this week to demonstrate against Mr Mikati's appointment.

The original plan had been for Mr Hague to visit Syria and Lebanon, but the Beirut leg off the trip was called off as the situation worsened. Mr Hague has made engagement with Syria a priority since he took over the Conservative foreign affairs brief.

Speaking to the JC last year he said: "Some people in Israel would say it's very difficult to have relations with Syria. I think it's very important for us to try to detach Syria from Iran."

Mr Hague believes Syria can be a major player in an increasingly unstable region.

Officials said the country was still in 'flux'

His view is that Mr Assad could use his influence to build stability in Lebanon, support Mahmoud Abbas in his pursuit of peace with Israel and discourage Iran from developing its nuclear programme.

Foreign Office officials said reports of Iranian arms reaching Hezbollah via Syria remained a concern for the UK government.

Last updated: 3:35pm, January 27 2011