The sources said the French Foreign Ministry, under instructions from the Elysee Palace, had authorized Cousseran to inform Syria of the need to quit betting on external powers to make a "deal" at Lebanon's expense.

The French sources confirmed that Cousseran conveyed a "harsh warning" to each of Syria's Vice President Farouk Sharaa and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem concerning the need to deal "positively" with French and Arab efforts aimed at building stability in Lebanon.

They stressed that Cousseran was "very honest and clear" with the Syrian leadership, adding that he has relayed France's firm stance which gave Syria what they said was the "last chance" toward changing its behavior in Lebanon.

Cousseran's visit to Damascus earlier this week represented the first such contact between Syria and France since President Nicolas Sarkozy took office last month and the highest-level visit by a French official to Syria in almost two years.

The French sources told Naharnet that Cousseran had also informed Syrian officials that such visits will not take place in the future unless France sees "tangible" changes in Syria's behavior in Lebanon and the region.

The French Foreign Ministry was eager to inform the Syrian leadership, through its envoy, of France's "unyielding" policy, the sources said.

They said Cousseran had handed over to the foreign ministry a report on the outcome of his July 11 visit to Tehran.

According to the report, the sources said, Cousseran's talks in Tehran were "affected" by remarks made by Sarkozy on Hezbollah.

Cousseran said in his report that the Iranians do not share France's view on Lebanon, adding that he informed officials in Tehran that Paris was "by no means" considerding to interfere in the Lebanese presidential elections nor in shaping up the new government.

The sources said the Iranian leadership has expressed solidarity with the Syrian regime regarding rejecting the formation of any Lebanon government that opposes Syria.

Cousseran said Iran neither desires a political vacuum in Lebanon nor the crisis to continue, but at the same time Tehran would not consider the two issues as redline.

Cousseran emphasized that Iran deems itself a "major regional power;" and that it deals with Lebanon on that basis as well as from a strategic angle which takes into account Hezbollah's demographic, economic and political positions.

The daily An Nahar on Friday also quoted French Foreign Ministry spokesman David Martinon as saying Cousseran's visit to Damascus was of "diplomatic, not political nature."

Sources: Naharnet, Ya Libnan

Lang: It is unlikely that Assad has the USA in mind as an "honest broker": Col. Pat Lang commenting on a DailyStar story, here. (Via FLC)