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French Version

Rival parties keen to pursue dialogue after Paris meeting

Lebanon's political rivals reiterated Monday their commitment to continuing the dialogue after their return from the Saint Cloud talks, with French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran expected to arrive in Beirut on Wednesday.

Government sources told The Daily Star that Cousseran would arrive in Lebanon within the next 48 hours to act as a catalyst to prompt politicians to continue the talks they started in Paris. Some of the majority leaders will be returning to Beirut with Cousseran on the same plane.

Talks between Lebanese factions in France helped break the ice but made little progress in ending the nine-month-old deadlock between the pro-government and opposition forces.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he would visit Lebanon on July 28 to help the factions pursue talks aimed at easing the crisis.

Meanwhile, veteran politician MP Ghassan Tueni visited Speaker Nabih Berri, carrying a message from the Progressive Socialist Party urging Berri to start dialogue "immediately."

"I received a phone call from MP Marwan Hamadeh to relay a message to the speaker to start the dialogue, because given what happened in Paris, dialogue now could actually bring about results," Tueni said Monday, adding: "France was able to achieve progress in Saint Cloud."

In an earlier statement, Hamadeh had said the Saint Cloud dialogue "did not succeed and did not fail."

"It was a chance for open discussions between rival politicians after a long absence," Hamadeh told the Voice of Lebanon on Monday.

Fears are running high that the situation in Lebanon could worsen ahead of presidential polls in late September.

President Emile Lahoud said Monday that while the Saint Cloud meeting "failed" in reaching in a solution, it succeeded in breaking the ice among the leaders.

"We hope that all would give up their attempts to monopolize power, and not single out others or dictate conditions and force them on others," said Lahoud in a statement released by the Presidential Palace.

Lahoud reiterated that the first stage in reaching a solution would be the formation of a new Cabinet of national unity.

"A new Cabinet would ease political tensions and pave the way for holding presidential elections within the constitutional mandate," he said.

Meanwhile, PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt reiterated on Monday Lebanon's commitment to the Taif Accord, one of the main issues that all of the politicians at the Saint Cloud meeting agreed to fulfill.

"The Taif Accord protects Lebanon and its diversity and democracy," Jumblatt told the weekly Al-Anbaa newspaper.

One of the attendees, Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kenaan, characterized the meeting as "encouraging" as it revitalized interrupted relations between the Lebanese leaders.

"Some of the files like the formation of a rescue government and the presidential file will be completed as soon as possible," Kenaan told Sawt al-Ghad Monday.

"We are committed to continuing dialogue," he said, adding: "We will start it here in Lebanon very soon."

US Ambassador Jeffery Feltman also stressed the importance of dialogue, calling on the Lebanese to "sit together and discuss Lebanon's future" without any foreign interference.

Meanwhile, sources told Naharnet that rival Lebanese politicians failed to agree on a series of suggestions made by Kouchner concerning international resolutions, the formation of a new government and the presidential elections.

They said French efforts focused on finding common ground among the parties in order to reach a settlement that would end Lebanon's crisis.

Sources said Kouchner had proposed to the 14 factions a formula that calls for issuing a consensus statement on international resolutions and an agreement to put them into action.

Naharnet said Kouchner's offer was rejected at the last minute by representatives from the opposition who argued that such a position needed a "political decision" from their leaderships.

Beirut 17-07-2007
The Daily Star

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