Arab League chief resumes mediation between Lebanese factions
The head of the Arab League arrived in Beirut on Sunday to resume his mediation between Lebanon’s feuding factions amid signs that a solution for the three-month presidential deadlock was still far off as the gap between the pro-government and opposition factions remained wide.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa went straight from Beirut airport to talks with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is aligned with the Syrian-backed opposition led by the militant Hezbollah group.
He was to meet later legislator Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, before holding talks with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, whose government is backed by the United States, the West and Arab countries.
Lebanon is mired in its worst political crisis since the end of its 1975-90 civil war. Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud left office on November 23 without a successor being elected. The sharply divided parliament has so far failed to elect Army Commander Gen Michel Suleiman as a consensus president amid jockeying for power between the parliament majority and the opposition.
A parliament session to elect Suleiman as president scheduled for Tuesday was likely to be postponed again, the 15th such delay in three months, as the two sides remained entrenched in their previous positions over power sharing in the future Cabinet.
Lebanon’s presidential crisis has compounded a yearlong fierce power struggle between Saniora’s Western-backed government and the opposition.
Moussa has visited Lebanon several times before to push for an Arab plan calling for the election of Suleiman as a compromise candidate for president. The plan, adopted unanimously by Arab foreign ministers in Cairo last month, also calls for the formation of a national unity government and the adoption of a new electoral law.
Moussa has hosted two rounds of discussions between pro-government and opposition leaders, focusing on the Arab initiative, but failed to break the deadlock.
He is expected to host a new round of talks later Sunday between majority leader Hariri, former President Amin Gemayel, who is aligned with the anti-Syrian majority bloc, and Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, local newspapers reported.
This process has been complicated by the opposition’s demand for a new unity government that would give it veto power over major decisions and they have thwarted attempts to choose a president by preventing a two-thirds quorum.
The Lebanese crisis is expected to be discussed during a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh Sunday, local newspapers reported. (AP)
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