Qatar to host Lebanon peace talks

Meeting part of new plan brokered by Arab League to resolve all political differences.

    Sheikh Hamad, left, headed the delegation sent by the Arab League to defuse the Lebanon crisis [AFP]

    The government and the Hezbollah-led opposition agreed a day earlier in Beirut, Lebanon's capital, to a new national dialogue to elect a president and form a unity government.
    A six-point plan was approved on Thursday under the mediation of an Arab League delegation headed by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who is both Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister.
    Airport reopens
    Under the deal, the rivals undertook to launch a dialogue "to shore up the authority of the Lebanese state throughout the country", to refrain from using weapons to further political aims, and to remove fighters from the streets.
    It also called for the rivals to refrain from using language that could incite violence, as well as the removal of roadblocks that have prevented access to Beirut airport and other parts of the country.
    Shortly after the six-point plan was announced, the opposition cleared a series of roadblocks leading to Beirut airport.
    Air traffic came in to land at the airport shortly afterwards.
    James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Lebanon, said that Lebanese people are hopeful that the talks between the country's political leaders will defuse immediate tensions.
    "There are so many issues that have to be resolved in this country, which has had political deadlock for 18 months,"
    "I think pro-government supporters are very worried about the situation. They saw how they did not do well militarily last week, particularly in the mountains [of Lebanon]."
    Lebanon in crisis

    Who's who in Lebanese politics
    The Arab League intervention was prompted by the worst sectarian violence since the 1975-1990 civil war, marked by the takeover by opposition fighters from Hezbollah and its allies such as the Amal of large swaths of west Beirut.
    Hopes of a deal were raised on Wednesday after the Siniora government cancelled two measures against the Hezbollah that were seen as the trigger for the latest unrest.
    The cabinet rescinded plans to investigate a private Hezbollah phone network and reassign the head of airport security over allegations that he is close to Hezbollah.
    Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief, had branded those moves a declaration of  war.
    Presidential election
    Parliament in Beirut is scheduled to convene on June 10 for its 20th attempt to elect a president.
    Both sides agree on General Michel Suleiman, the army chief, as the new president, but they remain divided over the details of a proposed unity government and a new law for parliamentary elections due next year.
    Six opposition ministers quit the Siniora cabinet in November 2006, sparking the current political crisis.
    Thursday's announcement in Beirut said the Doha dialogue would also lead to the end of a long-running opposition sit-in that has left the heart of downtown Beirut a virtual ghost town.
    The latest developments coincide with a visit to the region by George Bush, the US president, who has accused Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian allies of setting out to destablise the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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