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In a surprising development Al Akhbar newspaper denied in a report published on Friday that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah met in Damascus Syrian President Bashar Assad stressing that the meeting never took place.

Al Akhbar which is closely associated with Hezbollah and Syria reported yesterday that the two leaders met about 10 days ago and discussed the developments in the region including the issue of funding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probing the 2005 assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri.

According to the daily’s Thursday report the two leaders differed on the issue of STL funding. While Assad had no objection against funding the UN court , out of concern that the issue could lead to the collapse of the government , Nasrallah was dead against funding the tribunal

The daily stressed that unlike Nasrallah , Assad showed flexibility in this regard . Assad reportedly told Nasrallah at the end of the meeting ” I leave the final decision up to you and your allies since I consider this an internal Lebanese issue ”.

The daily also denied the contents of its yesterday’s report stressing that no such discussions took place between the two leaders.

Hezbollah toppled the previous government headed by Saad Hariri over its refusal to cut ties with the tribunal, set up in the aftermath of the 2005 assassination of Saad Hariri’s father, Rafik Hariri.

The tribunal has indicted four Hezbollah operatives for the February 14, 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others in Beirut.

But the Shiite party and its allies, which dominate the new government, have dismissed the court as part of a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy and have vowed to block any efforts by the Lebanese government to contribute its share to the tribunal’s funding.

Beirut has yet to pay what it owes for the year 2011 and in 2010 transferred the funds without government approval.

Hariri’s killing plunged Lebanon into a series of political crisis that brought the country close to civil war in 2008.

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