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French Version


Rival Lebanese leaders welcome Arab League proposal to elect Suleiman

Plan gives president deciding votes in contested decisions

Lebanon's feuding politicians on Sunday welcomed the decision by Arab nations, including Syria, to back the head of Lebanon's Armed Forces (LAF) as the next president, expressing hope the move would help end the country's political crisis.

Arab foreign ministers approved on Sunday a resolution, which says a national unity government in Lebanon should be formed in such a way that no one party can impose or block any decision.

The draft endorses the choice of the LAF commander General Michel Suleiman as the next president of Lebanon and says he should be the arbiter in any contested decision.

Arab diplomatic sources said Syria, the main foreign power behind the Lebanese opposition, has agreed to the draft, which does not overtly give the opposition veto power.

In return the draft does not attack Syria and it enhances the role of Suleiman, who is widely seen as sympathetic to Syrian interests in Lebanon.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa is expected to visit Beirut this week to push through a deal.

The wrangling over the Lebanese presidency has been part of a proxy conflict between Syria and Iran on one side and the US and its Arab and European friends on the other.

All the main parties have accepted Suleiman as the compromise candidate for the presidency but his election could not go ahead until they agreed other details of a complete package, including the structure of the next government.

The Lebanese Parliament is set to try for a 12th time to confirm Suleiman as president on January 12 but until the Arab ministers came up with their plan it looked unlikely to succeed.

Electing a president requires a two-thirds quorum that neither camp holds.

The draft resolution says the election of Suleiman as president should take place immediately, along with immediate agreement to form a national unity government "such that the composition does not allow any decision to be imposed or blocked by any one party."

"The president of the republic should have the final say [in case of disagreement]," the draft added.

After the election of the president and the formation of a government, work should start on drafting a new law governing parliamentary elections, the draft says.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with the opposition, thanked the Arab ministers for their call, saying "we hope that it will be translated on the ground to ward off any strife and end the current crisis."

"I tell the Lebanese that we can start with the Arab resolution to ... confirm our unity," Berri added in a statement released by his office.

Saad Hariri Saad-Hariri-Profile Sep-07 , head of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, echoed Berri's endorsement, describing the resolution as a "historic stance that expresses the real Arab will in rejecting all kinds of pressure on our country."

"It also gives the Lebanese people moral, political and national support that will enable them, God willing, to overcome the current period," he added.

The ruling coalition has accused the opposition of obstructing the election of a new president under orders from Syria and Iran. In turn, the opposition has claimed pro-government groups in the parliament majority follow US policies.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Sunday, as well as other Arab officials, to thank them for helping find a solution to the crisis, his office said in a statement.

Siniora also called pro-government Lebanese officials and urged them to back the Arab initiative, calling it "a major development on the road to solving the crisis in Lebanon."

Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended Nov. 23. The crisis over the presidency has capped a year-long power struggle between anti-Syrian politicians, who hold a slim majority in parliament and support the Western-backed government of Siniora, and the pro-Syrian opposition.

Hizbullah legislator Hassan Fadlallah said the opposition will "openly discuss the Arab initiative because it [the opposition] is keen to find a solution to the political crisis."

Despite the decision by the Arab ministers not to support opposition veto power, Fadlallah praised their statement for addressing both the need to elect a president and form a new national unity government.

Beirut 08-01-2008
Rédaction
The Daily Star



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