GeriGündem Rival Lebanon leaders clinch deal to end crisis
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Rival Lebanon leaders clinch deal to end crisis

Rival Lebanon leaders clinch deal to end crisis
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Rival Lebanese leaders clinched a deal on Wednesday to end an 18-month political feud that exploded into deadly sectarian fighting and threatened to plunge the nation into all-out civil war. (UPDATED)

The agreement, announced after days of tense talks in Doha, will see the election of a president for Lebanon on Sunday and the creation of a unity government in which the Hezbollah-led opposition will have the power of veto. 


US-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora described the deal as a "great achievement in... the history of Lebanon" although analysts said it appeared grievances remained unresolved particularly over Hezbollah’s military might.


The two sides had been negotiating since Friday in an Arab-mediated bid to end a political standoff that erupted into deadly street battles this month, the worst sectarian unrest in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war.


Wednesday’s accord was hailed in Washington and regional states which back both factions as signs of renewed stability in Lebanon, which has been battered by years of conflict, political turmoil and a string of assassinations.


Lebanese themselves reacted with relief but were also wary it might be only a temporary reprieve for their deeply divided nation.


"Hopefully this is not a band-aid solution and is a long-lasting one, people need to live in peace," said Aleco Assaf, 64, as a long-running opposition protest that turned the heart of Beirut into a virtual ghost-town was finally coming to an end.


The deal calls for the election of army chief Michel Sleiman as president, the formation of a unity government in which the Syrian- and Iranian-backed opposition has a veto, a new election law and a ban on the use of weapons in internal conflict.


Under the accord, parliament speaker Nabih Berri was to convene lawmakers within 24 hours for the vote but a senior aide to Siniora said lawmakers would now meet on Sunday.


The rival factions had agreed last year on electing Sleiman as the successor to Damascus protege Emile Lahoud, who stepped down at the end of his term in November, leaving the nation without a head of state.


But the Sunni-led government and the mainly Shiite opposition had long differed over power-sharing and a new electoral law and parliament has previously put off 19 attempts to vote for a new president.


The ruling majority will have 16 seats in the cabinet and be able to choose the prime minister while the opposition will have 11 seats with the power of veto.


Another three posts will be nominated by the elected president, who under Lebanon’s multiconfessional system must be a Maronite Christian.


Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre, said the deal would create a "new balance of power" in Lebanon but that the opposition veto was a major setback for the government. "But it will not resolve the basic contradictions, because there are two states, the state itself and the Hezbollah which is another state," he said.


David Welch, US deputy secretary for Near Eastern affairs, described the agreement as a "welcome development.


"It is a necessary and positive step toward accomplishing what the Arab Leagues initiative on Lebanon was designed to do," electing a president of Lebanon, forming a new government and revising the electoral law, he said.


In the Middle East, backers of both Siniora’s government and the Iranian- and Syrian-backed opposition hailed the deal along with former colonial power France which voiced its commitment to Lebanon’s "unity, stability, sovereignty and independence."


The crisis erupted in November 2006 when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the Siniora cabinet, which has the support of Washington and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and the opposition later launched a tent protest in Beirut.


It degenerated into street battles in early May which saw fighters from Hezbollah and its allies temporarily seize control of large swathes of west Beirut from their Sunni rivals and left a total of 65 people dead.


Disagreements over Hezbollah’s large arsenal also proved a stumbling block in the talks, with government representatives insisting that it be on the agenda and the Shiite militant group saying the issue is not up for discussion.


Hezbollah was the only movement not required to disarm after the civil war, saying their weapons were a means to defend the country against Israel.


Israel ended its 22-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000 but fought a devastating war against Hezbollah guerrillas in the summer of 2006.








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