Syria's Assad congratulates Lebanon's new president

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, seen in July 2016, called new Lebanese President Michel Aoun to congratulate the regional neighbor on on his election (AFP Photo/)
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Beirut (AFP) - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad Monday congratulated his new Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun on his election, hoping it would contribute to "reinforcing stability" in Lebanon, state news agency SANA said.

Lebanese lawmakers earlier Monday elected the 81-year-old ex-army chief, who promised to protect the country from spillover from the five-year war in neighbouring Syria.

In a phone call, "Assad congratulated General Michel Aoun on his election," SANA said, hoping it would "contribute to reinforcing stability in Lebanon and to bringing about a better future for the Lebanese people".

Earlier, after taking the presidential oath, Aoun said: "Lebanon is still treading through a minefield, but it has been spared the fires burning across the region."

Aoun was once in the vanguard of opposition to Syria's regime before an about-face that saw him join forces with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement that has backed Assad's regime in the war.

More than a million Syrian refugees have flooded Lebanon since the start of the conflict in 2011, which is already home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, many of whom live in squalid camps.

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