The National Dialogue Conference held in Beirut was abruptly adjourned on Tuesday until next week with no agreement on the key issues of the fate of Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian president, disarming Hizb Allah fighters and ties with Syria.


Nabi Berri, the parliament speaker, who had called the talks, said they would resume on 13 March, instead of continuing until Thursday as scheduled.


Berri said this would give leaders time to consult their groups and parties. He denied the delay was caused by remarks by Walid Jumblatt, the anti-Syrian Druze leader, who said in Washington the talks were stalled and called for Hizb Allah to be disarmed.


But political sources said Jumblatt's statements on Monday had cast a shadow over the Beirut conference and had drawn strong objections from Berri and Hassan Nasr Allah, the head of Hizb Allah, both Shia Muslim leaders close to Syria.


Jumblatt called from Washington
to remove Lahoud (File)  

The pro-Syrian camp at the talks had hoped to reach a deal that would allow Hizb Allah to keep its weapons, despite a UN demand for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon. The anti-Syrian coalition was seeking a consensus on ousting Lahoud.


Lebanese leaders assembled last week in their broadest gathering since the 1975-90 civil war to debate issues that have paralysed government and prolonged a political crisis.


Jumblatt, campaigning for Lahoud's removal, said he was lobbying the US to press Syria harder into accepting the exit of what he called its "puppet".


Compromise 

Jumblatt said the anti-Syrian coalition had refused to accept a compromise that would have remove Lahoud but allowed Hizb Allah to keep its arms for use against Israel. Other anti-Syrian leaders had denied any such compromise had been discussed.


The Druze leader said the coalition would hold mass rallies against Lahoud if the talks made no headway.


Jumblatt attended the start of the talks last week but then flew to Washington, leaving a top aide to represent him. He met Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, on Monday for the second time in two weeks.


Saad al-Hariri, the parliament majority leader, insisted the talks were not doomed.

 

"The dialogue has not been buried," he said.

 

"Come Monday and you will see that it will succeed and we will take decisions.


"The issues of the presidency and the weapons of the resistance [Hizb Allah] were tackled very seriously as well as other issues."


Worst crisis

The killing of Saad al-Hariri's father, Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister, 13 months ago plunged Lebanon into its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.


The assassination sparked massive street protests that the US used to force Syria out of Lebanon after 29 years of military presence. The anti-Syrian coalition swept last year's elections.

Syrian troops were sent to Lebanon in 1975 when Suleiman Franjiya, then the Lebanese president, asked Syria to send troops to help in stopping the spark of the civil war.


In 1976 an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia decided to form an Arab intervention force to help ending the Lebanese civil war, and recommended that the already existing Syrian troops would be the backbone of that force.