Iran TerrorismLebanon opposition rejects Qatari compromise at crisis talks

Lebanon opposition rejects Qatari compromise at crisis talks

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ImageAFP: Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition on Monday rejected a proposal at Arab-mediated talks with pro-government rivals aimed at breaking a political deadlock which took the country to the brink of civil war.

ImageDOHA (AFP) — Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition on Monday rejected a proposal at Arab-mediated talks with pro-government rivals aimed at breaking a political deadlock which took the country to the brink of civil war.

The rebuff threatened to derail the crisis talks on their third day, and came after host Qatar proposed an immediate presidential vote and formation of a unity government while postponing discussion of a disputed electoral law.

In a statement issued after a meeting of its leaders, the Syria- and Iran-backed opposition refused to postpone discussion of the electoral law and said it was committed to the Arab-brokered agreement reached last week in Beirut, which led to the Doha talks.

"The Lebanese opposition stresses its adherence to… (firstly) agreeing on the representation (of parties) in the formation of a national unity government, and (secondly) to agree on a new electoral law," the statement said.

"The agreement would be crowned by electing General Michel Sleiman as president as agreed."

The rival factions have agreed on the election of the army chief as president to succeed Damascus protege Emile Lahoud, whose term ended in November.

But differences over the government's makeup and the electoral law have blocked his election, worsening a crisis that began in November 2006 when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet of US-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

The simmering conflict erupted into days of deadly sectarian fighting earlier this month between the feuding factions that killed 65 people and saw Shiite Hezbollah and its allies briefly seize swathes of west Beirut.

On Sunday Qatar suggested forming a unity government in Lebanon of 30 ministers, with 13 from the parliamentary majority, 10 from the opposition and seven chosen by the newly elected president.

The opposition has insisted that it wants more than a third of cabinet posts.

A Christian member of the opposition delegation told AFP earlier on Monday they were not willing to postpone debate on the electoral law, which could prove decisive in determining results of parliamentary polls due next year.

The factions differ on constituency boundaries, fearing they would lose parliamentary seats from any demographic changes in the election law.

Qatar has also proposed including a clause in the final statement of the Doha talks providing security guarantees against the use of arms in internal Lebanese disputes.

Disagreement over Hezbollah's arsenal also threatened to torpedo the talks when members of the parliamentary majority bloc insisted on debating the issue in Doha.

Qatar sought to defuse the clash by offering to come up with a proposal on the question of arms.

But the head of the Hezbollah team, MP Mohammed Raad, said on Sunday: "The issue of the resistance, its arms and capabilities is not up for discussion in Doha."

Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat hit back by saying that "if the arms issue is not specifically addressed… then there will be nothing."

Druze MP Akram Shehaieb said the pro-government bloc wanted to address the issue only of the weapons used "against the Lebanese people in Beirut and the mountains" in the recent clashes.

"The weaponry of the resistance is a Lebanese issue which would be debated in a (subsequent) dialogue led by the president in Lebanon," he said, using a term that refers to Hezbollah's fight against Israel.

Hezbollah was the only group that did not have to surrender its guns following the 1989 Saudi-brokered Taef agreement to end the 1975-1990 civil war, because it was fighting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.

Israel pulled its troops out of Lebanon in 2000.

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