Lebanon fails to seal presidential fate

Lebanese leaders have failed to decide on the future of the country's president and the demand for Hizb Allah to surrender its weapons.

    Berri (R) and Prime Minister Fuad Siniora during the meeting

    Leaders of Lebanon's main political factions met for more than three hours at the parliament building on Friday without achieving any progress but agreed to resume talks on May 16.

    Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, announced the delay at  the end of a sixth round of talks between Christian and Muslim leaders, which had been billed as the last meeting to discuss the long-standing crisis over the presidency.

    Deadlock

    The fate of Emil Lahoud is one of the most contentious issues at the talks, with the Damascus protege at loggerheads with the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority.

    After the last round of negotiations earlier this month, the  leaders had decided that they would discuss calls for Lahoud to resign one last time on April 28 before moving on to the issue of disarming Hizb Allah.

    The leaders will resume the
    inconclusive talks next month

    Lebanese leaders are also divided over the disarmament of the  military wing of Hizb Allah, whose fighters were widely credited for  bringing about Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 after 22 years of occupation.
      
    The group has vowed to carry on a war to free the disputed Shebaa Farms border area, which Israel seized from Syria along with the Golan Heights in 1967. The area is claimed by Lebanon with Damascus's approval.

    US call

    The talks aimed at ending Lebanon's political paralysis are  being held with Syria facing a new UN resolution over its fraught ties with Lebanon and a US asset freeze against suspects in the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.

    Jeffrey Feltman, the US ambassador to Lebanon, called for Lahoud to resign and said he hoped that "lingering Syrian interference in Lebanon, both direct and through its proxies, will end".

    Lebanon has been in political turmoil since the February 2005 killing of al-Hariri and the later withdrawal of Syrian troops after 29 years on Lebanese soil.

    Earlier agreements

    In five rounds of national talks since March 2, leaders reached agreement on the establishment of an international court to judge those responsible for al-Hariri's assassination.
      
    Lebanese leaders have also agreed to dismantle Palestinian military bases in Lebanon, to work to normalise relations with the former powerbroker Syria and to define borders between the two countries.
      
    But the last three points have yet to be implemented as they require the cooperation of Damascus, which has rejected calls to define the border in the Shebaa Farms area before Israel withdraws.

    SOURCE: AFP


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