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French Version

Lebanese politicians pour cold water on hopes that Beirut crisis will end soon

Lebanese politicians pour cold water on hopes that Beirut crisis will end soon

Politicians and diplomats in Lebanon denied any deal had been reached to resolve the prevailing political crisis here on Tuesday, one day after reports flooded Lebanon that a three-month-old political deadlock would be resolved by the end of the week.

Speaking to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday, Amal MP Ali Bazzi said there was "neither cause for optimism nor pessimism."

Bazzi said "certain indications" showed that the shape of a national unity government had been agreed, adding that the opposition had consistently called for a 19+11 formula and rejected the idea of a "neutral minister" as unconstitutional.

Speaker Nabih Berri, the head of Amal, met Tuesday with US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman and French Ambassador Bernard Emie, both of whom left without speaking to reporters.

But in separate comments to LBC, Lebanese Forces MP Georges Adwan denied that the ruling majority had agreed to the 19+11 formula, but said that the current atmosphere was conducive to a solution.

Adwan said the 19+11 formula would mean a return to Syrian tutelage and vowed that pro-government forces will continue to oppose the idea.

The 19+11 would entail transforming the current 24-minister Cabinet into a 30-minister Cabinet comprised of 19 loyalist ministers and 11 from the opposition, which would grant the latter veto power in the government.

Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah also said Tuesday that no agreement had been reached, but added that efforts were being made to reach a solution ahead of an Arab summit to be held in Riyadh this month.

But in perhaps the largest sign that reports of a breakthrough in the impasse were immature, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal told a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh on Monday that the "Lebanese must put an end [to the crisis] and decide for themselves to put national interests above all."

The foreign ministers of the GCC later released a statement urging all Lebanese political groups to return to dialogue.

Saudi Ambassador Abdel-Aziz Khoja left Beirut early Tuesday for Riyadh, one day after holding a series of meetings with officials from both sides of the political divide.

In a separate development, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Tuesday that Syria "was never concerned" with the legal aspect of an international tribunal to try those accused of the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, "as this concerns the Lebanese."

Moallem's comments came during a joint news conference with Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, who had met earlier with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Moallem added that any Syrian national found to have participated in the Hariri assassination would be tried in accordance with Syrian law.

In Beirut, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told visitors to the Grand Serail on Tuesday of "serious endeavors" to rescue Lebanon from the current crisis, but added that there were no "clear initiatives" as yet.

Siniora also met Tuesday with Feltman to discuss regional and local developments.

Beirut 07-03-2007
The Daily Star

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