|Cousseran invites deadlocked Lebanese factions to Paris
|Envoy says 14 parties can each send two representatives
French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran arrived in Beirut Tuesday carrying invitations for 14 Lebanese political parties to attend an inter-Lebanese meeting in Paris from July 14 to 16 aimed at getting rival factions to talk in the hope they would resolve their differences and end the political crisis.
Cousseran first held a 90-minute meeting with Premier Fouad Siniora at the Grand Serail. The French envoy emphasized his government's commitment to hosting the meeting in the Paris suburb of St. Clou in mid-July to "restart dialogue and rebuild trust" between rival Lebanese political factions.
"The meeting will include the representatives of 14 factions who have taken part in the national dialogue. Each group can send two delegates," Cousseran said. While French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will attend, he added, France will not impose the agenda.
"France aims through this dialogue to organize and participate in a dialogue between the various Lebanese factions," Cousseran said. He said Kouchner would try to play the role of moderator and facilitator between the Lebanese parties at the meeting.
While the representatives taking part in the meeting in Paris will be senior-level officials delegated by their parties, no specific names have been put forward. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa will reported also attend the meeting.
The Central News Agency, quoting anonymous sources, reported that Cousseran has invited civil society members and academics to meet with him at the French Embassy to discuss the St. Clou meeting and their invitation to attend the talks.
The French envoy said he had a deep exchange of ideas with Siniora over what such a meeting could accomplish, reviewing the positions of the rival Lebanese factions and discussing certain organizational aspects of the meeting in Paris. Cousseran described his discussion with Siniora as "very useful and important." Cousseran later met Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain al-Tineh.
The French envoy is on his second visit to Lebanon since June 9 to meet with the various factions to rebuild trust and get politicians to talk to one another and finally resolve the country's political crisis.
During his visit to Paris last week, Siniora said he did not expect much progress from the talks called by France. "We support all of the initiatives that France has taken to bring together the Lebanese people, have a dialogue and bridge differences," Siniora said, but he said that expectations are not extremely high for this meeting.
Hizbullah MP Nawar Sahili said the objective of Siniora's European tour is to try to obtain "external support after he has come to realize that he had lost all public support."
"Siniora is looking for [US Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice's support. He totally forgot about the problems and the tragedies that the Lebanese people face," Sahili said during a rally Tuesday, adding that the ruling coalition have become "experts in jeopardizing all initiatives aimed at resolving the crisis."
The Daily Star