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Syrian minister treated in hospital

The Syrian foreign minister has been rushed to hospital in Beirut and is undergoing treatment for blocked coronary arteries.

Foreign minister Walid al-Moallem, who is aged in his 70s, is known for his hard-line stance against the opposition and is a close confidant of Syrian president Bashar Assad. It is not clear if he has had heart problems in the past.

Mr al-Moallem was brought to the American University of Beirut Medical Centre (AUBMC), according to Lebanese security officials.

Lebanese politician Assem Qanso, speaking after visiting Mr al-Moallem, told reporters outside the hospital that Syria's top diplomat is "in stable condition" and would undergo an operation.

"Some of his arteries are blocked. He will undergo an operation and God willing it will be good. It is not dangerous," Mr Qanso, a close ally of the Syrian government, said.

The security officials said that when Mr al-Moallem arrived at the hospital, he was walking slowly.

Lebanese police and plain clothes officers were deployed outside the hospital. Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, was seen entering the facility earlier this morning, presumably to visit Mr al-Moallem, but did not speak to reporters.

Mr al-Moallem led the Syrian government delegation to the UN-hosted peace talks with the opposition in Switzerland earlier this year.

A career diplomat, he served as ambassador to Washington for nine years, starting in 1990 during Syria's on-and-off peace talks with Israel.

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