Region | Lebanon

Syria and Sa'ad back Arab plan to end Lebanon crisis

Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader and Syria support an Arab plan to end the constitutional crisis in Lebanon, which has not had a president since November 23, diplomatic and political sources said on Sunday.

  • Reuters
  • Published: 00:29 January 7, 2008
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Mua'alem (left) and Amr Mousa prior to a meeting at Arab League headquarters.
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Cairo: Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader and Syria support an Arab plan to end the constitutional crisis in Lebanon, which has not had a president since November 23, diplomatic and political sources saidon Sunday.

Arab foreign ministers are expected to approveon Sunday a resolution close to the draft plan, 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 army chief General Michel Sulaiman as the next president of Lebanon and says he should be the arbiter in any contested decision.

The leader of the Lebanese parliamentary majority, Sa'ad Al Hariri, welcomed the plan.

"The declaration by the Arab foreign ministers presents the Lebanese with a new chance to elect a consensus president and fill the presidency," he said.

"All Lebanese should ... treat the results of the Cairo meeting as an achievement in the interest of Lebanon... We still bet on opening a new page, and commit to the Arab roadmap towards electing General Michel Sulaiman as president," he added in a statement.

A member of parliament from Hezbollah said the opposition wanted clarifications on some aspects of the next government.

"We will wait for the consultations and meetings to understand the details," parliamentarian Hussain Haj-Hassan told the Hezbollah television station Al Manar TV.

Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told the opening session of the formal ministerial meeting that the Arab plan had satisfied the Lebanese parties and would contribute towards a rapid solution of Lebanon's political problems.

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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 General Sulaiman, who is widely seen as sympathetic to Syrian interests in Lebanon.

Lebanese officials said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa will 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 United States and its Arab and European friends on the other.

All the main parties have accepted Sulaiman 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 Sulaiman 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 Sulaiman 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]," it 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.

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