Hariri to visit Moscow amid Lebanese political standoff

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MOSCOW, November 19 (RIA Novosti) - Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad al-Hariri is set to arrive in Moscow on Monday for talks tomorrow with President Vladimir Putin, amid a political standoff in the Mideast state.

Lawmakers in Lebanon are set to vote on a new president on Wednesday, two days before incumbent pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term expires, but the opposition and the ruling anti-Syrian coalition has yet to agree on a candidate.

In an interview with a popular Russian daily published on Monday, Hariri, the son of former premier Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in 2005, said he would seek Russia's help in preventing Iran and Syria from meddling in his country's affairs.

"Russia, which maintains friendly ties with Lebanon as well as with Syria and Iran... could dissuade those countries from interfering in our domestic affairs, and from activities that complicate the situation in Lebanon," Hariri told Vremya Novostei.

Western countries led by France have been pushing for Lebanon's Western-backed government to reach a compromise with the opposition, led by Islamist group Hizbollah, on a presidential candidate, to avoid the situation developing into a political crisis.

Iran and Syria have been widely accused of supporting Hizbollah militants, including by providing weapons.

Al-Hariri's previous meeting with the Russian leader was in May 2006.

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