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French Version

Mubarak urges both camps in Lebanon to compromise

Jumblatt rejects opposition's demand for veto power

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned of "threats" to Arab and regional security on Sunday, as hopes of a solution to the crisis in Beirut were dashed after five meetings between Speaker Nabih Berri and parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri made little progress.

Mubarak told the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai on Sunday that an Arab League summit set for the end of the month was coming at "a sensitive time" as political crises continue to plague Lebanon and the region.

"It is important for Arab leaders to meet ... and I believe that President Bashar [Assad] realizes that Syria's natural habitat is in the Arab world and it can't be isolated," Mubarak said.

He added that Egypt was on an "equal footing" with all parties in Lebanon, and urged the Lebanese to "stick to the principle of no victor or vanquished."

However, the Hizbullah-led opposition reiterated its demand for a third of ministerial posts in a new national unity government, while the ruling majority continued its rejection of what it sees as a potential veto vote over government decisions.

A sixth meeting between Berri and Hariri was postponed until later this week.

Hariri met with several senior members of the ruling coalition over the weekend ahead of a trip to Paris on Sunday, including MP Walid Jumblatt on Saturday. No details of the meeting were released to the media.

French President Jacques Chirac awarded Hariri the "Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur" (Knight of the Legion of Honor) order during a private ceremony in Paris on Sunday. Chirac said he wanted to "salute Hariri's role in bringing peace and democracy to Lebanon" and "his struggle to bring to justice the assassins of his father and former Premier Rafiq Hariri."

MP Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and his wife MP Strida Geagea, former MP Ghattas Khoury, MP Bahia Hariri, MP Nabil de Freij, Deputy Speaker Farid Makkari and MP Bassem Sabaa accompanied Hariri to Paris Sunday.

Jumblatt said on Sunday that the 19+11 formula for a new government was "absolutely unacceptable as the goal behind obtaining that power is hampering the international tribunal [to try those behind the murder of Hariri and others] and the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701."

Jumblatt also told the opposition to "think twice about their relationship with Syria, as Syria used them in the summer war with Israel and signed a deal with Israel at the expense of the bodies of those killed in the South."

Geagea said in Paris that the opposition was the side "hampering efforts for any reconciliation by refusing to shift from the 19+11 demand," adding that the March 14 Forces would "not step down from our refusal to give them a vetoing third."

Hizbullah officials reiterated over the weekend that any deal made would have to be based on 19-11 formula.

Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, the leading Hizbullah official in the South, said Sunday that "the next few days will be telling" for Lebanon.

"If the ruling majority doesn't accept our demand for the third guarantee, then it is proving the fact that it is working for a foreign interest and not for the sake of Lebanon," he said.

Beirut 19-03-2007
The Daily Star

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