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French Version

Sudanese envoy says Nasrallah has accepted a deal

Report follows 'largest' demonstration 'in the history of lebanon'

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has accepted an Arab League plan to resolve the political crisis in Lebanon, an Arab official said on Sunday.

Mustafa Ismail, an envoy from the Sudanese president, "was informed in Damascus today of the Hizbullah leader's acceptance of the proposals submitted to him," Ismail told AFP in Riyadh on Sunday.

Ismail told pan-Arab television station Al-Arabiyya that Nasrallah "has agreed in principle to the proposal." He did not detail the plan, saying only that "it has seven points."

Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah announced late Sunday that Nasrallah had in fact told Ismail that "Hizbullah will deal in a positive way with any initiative that ensures a national unity government which secures a blocking minority."

"But in the end, our position will be decided after we hold discussions among opposition leaders," he added.

A source close to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told The Daily Star late Sunday that Ismail had in fact met with Hizbullah representatives and Speaker Nabih Berri when he was in Beirut last week.

"Ismail is coming back to Beirut Monday. Siniora called him today and things look positive," the source said.

The reports came hours after opposition leader MP Michel Aoun told hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in central Beirut that Lebanon would have a caretaker government in a few days that would see the country through to new parliamentary elections.

Aoun, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, addressed a massive crowd that poured into Downtown Beirut from across Lebanon to demand the resignation of the sitting government.

Accusing the government of corruption, forging votes and a lack of legitimacy after the resignation of six ministers in early November, Aoun said: "We will wait for a few days. This is the last massive demonstration we will hold. The squares are not big enough to fit all our supporters and the barbed wires cannot protect the Grand Serail because people are expanding in all directions."

"In a few days we will completely renounce this government and announce the birth of a transitional Cabinet," he said.

Aoun said Siniora's Cabinet had failed to meet its responsibilities on every level over the past 18 months.

"Two assassinations of two MPs, Gebran Tueni last year and Pierre Gemayel 10 days ago, and not one suspect has been arrested so far," he said. "The security apparatus follows the orders of this government but it doesn't want to bear the responsibility of security or economy or anything. It is only willing to increase Lebanon's national debt. What kind of a government is that?"

Sunday's demonstration was "the largest and greatest crowd in the history of Lebanon," Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hizbullah's second-in-command, told a roaring crowd mere meters from the Grand Serail.

Leading protesters in a chant of "death to the US and Israel," Qassem said: "I tell those who are hiding in their castles: 'Open your eyes and ears to this scene; enough searching for international support. By God, neither the support of the US nor the Western countries and some Arab countries will help you. This crowd and public want its country back.'"

"Today, the Christian stands tall next to the Muslim; the Shiite next to the Sunni next to the Christian next to the Druze, all bearing the flag of this country," he declared.

Addressing Siniora and his Cabinet, Qassem continued: "You want hegemony over power and we want partnership. You want to divide this country among sects and we want it to be a country for all. You want power for yourselves and we want power to serve the people. You want to bring the Americans and we want to drive them away ... Lebanon is strong and has no place for invaders."

The demonstration was "purely political and peaceful, not sectarian nor violent," Qassem said. "It is a public move in the face of a failed and unconstitutional government."

Linking Druze MP Walid Jumblatt and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to boiling sectarian tensions, Qassem said that both March 14 leaders had stirred the Sunni street and "are now sitting aside and watching."

"They are stirring sectarian feelings because they cannot have control in Lebanon unless they live in turbulent times. They are accustomed to internal wars and fights and spreading sedition, and their past clearly points to that," he said.

"I tell Premier Siniora and those with him, leave them because they would only take you to destruction," he said.

Addressing Siniora directly, the Hizbullah official said: "If you want to truly show that you support the resistance and this people, as you say, then I advise you to prove it by doing one of two things, if not both. The first is that you issue an order to the Lebanese Army to give the resistance back the truckload of arms which it confiscated [in November]. The other is that you declare that you resign in a press conference that you can hold tonight or tomorrow."

Siniora has denied an allegation from Nasrallah that the army confiscated weapons from Hizbullah, and he has repeatedly refused to resign.

A Cabinet session is scheduled to be held Tuesday to refer the formation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri to Parliament.

President Emile Lahoud refused Saturday to approve the decree. The issue now depends on Speaker Nabih Berri, who could convene Parliament to vote on the tribunal issue.

Beirut 11-12-2006
The Daily Star

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