The Arab League said that Suleiman will hold considerable influence over
government decisions in Lebanon [GALLO/GETTY]

Arab foreign ministers, including Syria, have agreed to back General Michel Suleiman, the head of Lebanon's army, as the country's next president.

After the ministers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia mounted pressure on Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, during a meeting in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, the ministers endorsed a statement calling on Lebanon's rival parties to elect Suleiman and resolve their political differences.

"Stemming from Arab responsibilities toward Lebanon and in continuation of Arab efforts to help Lebanon overcome its crisis, the ministers agreed on a comprehensive plan and call on the concerned parties in Lebanon to reach a consensus."

The endorsement is seen as significant because it showed a sense of willingness on Syria's part to end the political crisis in Lebanon.

Common agreement 

It also indicates that Lebanon's opposition, led by the Syrian-backed Hezbollah, may drop its demand that it hold veto power in cabinet before allowing Suleiman to be elected.

The statement gave Lebanon a January 27 deadline to elect a president and form a new national unity government.

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said on Saturday that ministers would agree on a plan for Lebanon's parties to "hold immediate elections and form the national unity government".

He also said that under the plan, power would reside with the new president over whether or not to approve government decisions.
  
Lebanon has been without a president since Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian president's term ended on November 23 last year, plunging the country into the worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

Source: Agencies