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French Version

Larsen heads to Egypt to discuss Resolution 1559

Aoun says Saad hariri played role of 'pacifier' in national talks

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen began his regional tour to discuss the Lebanese situation with several key Arab leaders during the weekend, as the country's politicians evaluated the first two rounds of dialogue and prepared for the third round, expected to kick off Wednesday.

Larsen, Annan's special envoy on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, left Saudi Arabia for Egypt after he held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdel-Aziz and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Riyadh Saturday, and "lauded the important role played by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the efforts to resolve the multiple conflicts in the Middle East," an official statement by the UN said.

Larsen will be meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit and will be heading to Jordan, Qatar and Lebanon and is due to present his report to the UN Security Council on progress in implementing 1559 early next month.

According to the UN statement, talks with Saudi leaders were "constructive and forward-looking," the special envoy said, with a "strong convergence of views."

"We are working hand in hand, and the secretary general and I are looking forward to continuing this partnership," Larsen was quoted as saying.

According to the statement, the two sides discussed the implementation of Resolution 1559, which calls for the strict respect of Lebanon's sovereignty and political independence, the withdrawal of foreign forces, and the disarming and disbanding of militias in the country. "Discussions focused in particular on the ongoing national dialogue amongst all factions in Lebanon, which to date have yielded a consensus on the need to establish formal diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon and to delineate in full the international border between the two countries," it said.

This came as parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri left for Saudi Arabia Saturday on a private visit.

But no comment was made by Hariri's press office on whether he would meet Larsen. However, a spokesman said he will be back in the country by Wednesday, to take part in the third round of national dialogue.

And as the UN envoy was discussing Lebanon's national dialogue and the implementation of 1559 with Arab leaders, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said the first two rounds of the country's national dialogue had witnessed heated debates, but added that majority leader MP Saad Hariri had played the role of a "pacifier" at the roundtable.

"The debate heated up at several points, and someone had to play the role of a mediator, and this is what Hariri did ... he helped bridge communication between different parties," Aoun said.

Aoun, who was talking to a local radio station, said the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese, and added that the current debate around its identity stemmed from a mistake by the UN while demarcating the Blue Line following Israel's withdrawal in 2000.

Aoun also expressed his belief that the next stages of the national debate will not be "as hard as some expect."

"There is a huge change in Hizbullah's position [from maintaining arms] ... it is natural that Hizbullah's Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah participate in the national dialogue so that the party switches from resistance to political work following the achievement of the resistance's goals.

"Such a change cannot take place immediately, it has to happen gradually so that Hizbullah can integrate in the national life as a political party that enjoys vast public support," he said.

Aoun also tackled the issue of presidency, and refused to say there is a "presidential crisis."

"We have a 'ruling crisis,'" he said, adding that the solution would be through conducting early parliamentary elections, "which will lead to electing a new president after the current president steps down," he said.

But talking to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI), Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Saturday the presidential change was imminent, and added: "If we can reach this change through the national dialogue, it will be less costly than other ways," in a hint to the possibility of resorting to public demonstrations by the March 14 Forces as one of the means to topple Lahoud.

Geagea added that discussions to choose a new name for the president are currently taking place, and added that next Wednesday, when the third round of the national dialogue kicks off, will bring a clearer image as to who the new president would be.

"I am with a strong president ... but the strength is not only in public support ... a strong president should enjoy honor and integrity, and this is very important," he said.

Geagea added that he did not oppose Aoun reaching presidency, but said, "if circumstances prevent Aoun from being president, there are a lot of strong Christian candidates."

Geagea also discussed the issue of disarming Hizbullah, saying the national dialogue is dealing with two different points of view on it.

"This issue will take a lot of discussions because it is very delicate and complicated," Geagea said.

Beirut 21-03-2006
Majdoline Hatoum
The Daily Star

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