Power play

 

Hezbollah is pushing for more power in a new Lebanese cabinet partly to avoid being disarmed by any future government, a senior official said.

 

The remarks Friday by Mahmoud Komati, deputy head of Hezbollah's political bureau, were the first time the Shia Muslim group has publicly acknowledged a direct link between weapons possession and its drive for more power.

 

On the other hand, an anti-Syrian cabinet minister accused Hezbollah on Saturday of trying to scuttle a deal brokered by the Arab League to resolve Lebanon's deepening political crisis.

 

Marwan Hamadeh, the telecommunications minister, lashed out at Hezbollah as it threatened to gradually escalate its protests aimed at bringing down the Siniora government.

 

"Of course, there is a chance for an agreement if the parties move towards a compromise," Hamadeh said. "But apparently Hezbollah is setting conditions that are still far from what [Arab League chief] Amr Moussa has proposed to solve the crisis."

 

"Which means that the political deadlock is still there," Hamadeh said in English. "We will not accept Hezbollah's conditions for a one third-plus one. Only Moussa's proposal is acceptable."

 

Consensus principle

 

After two days of marathon talks with rival Lebanese factions, Moussa announced on Thursday that the government and opposition have agreed on a national unity cabinet that would make major decisions only by consensus.

 

Moussa said the parties had agreed on a formula that would give the anti-Syrian allies less than two-thirds of the cabinet and leave the opposition short of its demand for just over one-third.

 

A neutral cabinet minister would maintain the balance between the rival sides.

 

But the Arab League head said additional negotiations are needed for a deal, and he might return to Lebanon in the coming days.

 

A leading member of the pro-Syrian camp, Omar Karami, a former prime minister, said that unless Moussa returns in two or three days to complete an agreement, his side will step up the pressure on the government.