Hariri welcomes Arab League plan

Amr Moussa to visit Beirut to push through deal as Hezbollah seeks clarifications.

    Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo on Saturday to hammer out the plan [AFP]

    Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader has welcomed an Arab draft plan to end the constitutional crisis in Lebanon, after Syria threw its weight behind it, according to diplomatic and political sources.

    Saad al-Hariri said on Sunday: "The declaration by the Arab foreign ministers presents the Lebanese with a new chance to elect a consensus president and fill the presidency."

    But a member of parliament from Hezbollah, the Shia Muslim group, said the opposition wanted clarifications on some aspects of the next government.

    Lebanon has not had a president since November 23.

    Lebanese officials said Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, will visit Beirut this week to push through a deal.

    Arab League plan

    Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, are expected to approve on Sunday a resolution similar to the draft.

    The plan says a national unity government in Lebanon should be formed in such a way that no one party can impose or block any decision.

    It also endorses the choice of General Michel Suleiman, the army chief, as the next president of Lebanon and says that he should be the arbiter in any contested decision.

    The Lebanese parliament is set to try for a 12th time to confirm Suleiman 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.

    Mixed reactions

    In his statement on Sunday, al-Hariri 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 Suleiman as president."

    By contrast, Hussein Haj-Hassan, a Hezbollah MP, told the party's television station Al Manar TV: "We will wait for the consultations and meetings to understand the details."

    Hassan Fadlalah, another Hezbollah deputy, said: "There are new elements in the Arab initiative that we find very positive. But we need to study the full proposal first."

    Arab diplomatic sources said on Saturday that Syria, the main foreign power behind the Lebanese opposition, had agreed to the draft, which does not overtly give the opposition veto power.

    In return the draft does not attack Syria.

    The ministers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia had mounted pressure on Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, at Saturday's Arab League meeting.

    Moussa visit

    Speaking on Sunday, Moussa said: "We shall, with God's help, visit Lebanon within the coming 48 hours.

    "We will ask for a clear position vis-a-vis these issues: to elect a president of the republic; to agree on a national unity government; and to agree on other measures, such as electoral law, after the president is elected and the government is established."

    Mourad Medelci, the Algerian foreign minister, told 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.

    All the main parties have accepted Suleiman 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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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