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French Version

'No miracles' required to resolve Lebanese crisis - Moussa

Arab league boss meets with political leaders in bid to push through latest compromise plan

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said Thursday that while the situation was "delicate," resolving the Lebanese political logjam "does not require miracles," stressing the urgency of electing a president.

He said the convening of Saturday's parliamentary session to elect a new head of state depends on the success of his mediation efforts.

"The key is for the deciding vote [in Cabinet] to be in the hands of the president and we do not want any monopolization of power or hindrance in a new government," Moussa said Thursday as he continued his round of talks with Lebanese politicians and religious figures.

Moussa acknowledged that an "Arab consensus" was needed to bridge the Lebanese crisis, but said that such consensus exists with the Arab League's three-point plan. The plan asserts the primacy of electing a president and establishing a government in Lebanon in which neither side holds a monopoly or the power to topple the government.

The plan endorses Lebanese Armed Forces commander General Michel Suleiman's nomination for the presidency and the president's position as arbiter in any contested decisions between the majority and opposition in Cabinet.

The majority wants 14 ministers in a new government, accepts the opposition having 10 ministers while the remaining six ministers go to the president. The opposition, on the other hand, has floated the idea for the opposition, the majority and the president to have equal shares, or 10 ministers each, in a new Cabinet, a suggested rejected by the majority.

Moussa met Thursday with Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, Suleiman, Change and Reform Bloc leader MP Michel Aoun, former President Amin Gemayel and Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt. Moussa also met Speaker Nabih Berri.

After meeting with Gemayel, Moussa said that while constitutional norms must be respected "the Constitution must not be a hindrance to electing a president" adding that the interest of Lebanon lies in electing a president immediately.

Gemayel concurred with the need to elect a president "at the earliest," adding that agreement over the shape of a new government would come after that.

"I discussed with [Moussa] that should there be a delay in finding a solution and should the destructive numbers game [over Cabinet posts] continue with no way out ... we could resort to what [former President] Elias Sarkis did in 1982, elect a president and then form a neutral government," Gemayel said.

Gemayel stressed this idea was his own personal viewpoint and that he had not discussed it with his political allies. He added that a dialogue committee made up of Lebanese leaders would be set up to discuss all contentious issues along side a transitional, neutral government that would run the affairs of the nation.

Selim al-Sayegh, a political science professor who serves as Gemayel's adviser, told The Daily Star that the idea put forward by the former president was an effort to explore all avenues, but that the Arab League initiative remained the main framework for a solution.

He said the neutral government idea could be a last resort but doubted there could be a way to implement it. "Would it be possible to have a government in which no [side] has a say? The opposition is asking for a blocking third and for safeguards ... There is no way it could accept having no voice at all," Sayegh said.

From Rabieh, Moussa said the situation was "very delicate and crucial" adding that in the meeting Aoun explained his position and "listened attentively."

Free Patriotic Movement official Gebran Bassil told The Daily Star that Moussa's meeting with Aoun was "very good," adding that Aoun "remains positive and respective."

Bassil said details for any solution are to be discussed between the Lebanese, not with Moussa and not through the media. "Before we can go into details the majority has to first sit and talk with us," Bassil said.

Moussa said the Arab plan takes into consideration Christian concerns by insisting on the immediacy of filling the vacancy and by supporting the election of Suleiman.

"The Arab world cannot understand why the presidency remains vacant. The Arab League decided on the immediacy of electing a president and the establishment of a government in accordance with the Constitution and accepted norms provided neither side monopolizes or hinders government," Moussa said.

"Forming a government requires a president to undertake [parliamentary] consultations with various parties. Therefore we first need a president," Moussa said, stressing that the three points of the Arab initiative are a complete basket and indivisible, but adding that an electoral law would be decided on when there is agreement on one among the Lebanese.

Moussa said he will submit an end-of-mission report to the Arab summit meeting in Damascus in March, as well as UN chief Ban Ki-moon and EU for-eign affairs chief Javier Solana.

From Bkirki, Moussa said the patriarch was optimistic: "I see that there is a chance that today's meetings will end with good results." He added that a solution to the crisis is at hand, especially since there is agreement over the name of the next president. "It is unnatural for such a consensus to exists and for the [political] tugging and pulling to continue."

The secretary general said he did not note any outright objection to the Arab initiative from the opposition.

After meeting Qabbani, Moussa said the Arab initiative was "crystal clear" and did not need explaining but only requires agreement and a spirit of consensus to prevail. "No one can interpret [the Arab initiative] as they please ... The Lebanese interest is not open for multiple interpretations and time wasting," Moussa said.

Jumblatt met on Thursday at his home in Clemenceau a US Congressional delegation accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman and discussed with them developments in Lebanon and the region. Jumblatt later met Lebanese Forces boss Samir Geagea and his wife, MP Strida Geagea.

Parliamentary majority head MP Saad HaririSaad-Hariri-Profile Sep-07 met Thursday in Qoreitem French Charge d'Affaires Andrea Parant and the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian ambassadors to Lebanon.

Suleiman also met the US Congressional delegation at his office in Yarze. Suleiman later met Press Federation president Mohammad Baalbaki.

Beirut 11-01-2008
The Daily Star

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