Life returns to Beirut's streets

Lebanese celebrate a deal ending a political standoff that has crippled the country.

     Teenagers wore white T-shirts and distributed white roses along the streets to mark the occasion [AFP]

    "Today is cause for celebration," said Hassan Jaffal, 31, who manages Klub's restaurant, as the last of the tents were being removed.


    In Video

    Peace returns to the streets of Lebanon

    Among those celebrating was Bilal Bandakji, 36, who owns five restaurants in the area and, like many of his fellow businessmen, had to let go of staff or relocate as trade came to a halt during the street protest.


    "We will work out of one kitchen for all five ... hire and train new staff. We need to start from scratch," he said, adding that he had sent a quarter of his former employees to a restaurant he has opened in Dubai.


    Soha Ramadan, another Beirut resident, said: "Let us hope this will be the end of Lebanon's miseries."


    US cautiously accepts deal


    Protest tents were dismantled
    following the Qatar deal [AFP]

    The US praised the deal between the Lebanese leaders despite concessions won by Hezbollah.


    Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said it was a move towards resolving the crisis in Lebanon, which had threatened to become all-out civil war following street fighting after the government attempted to clamp down on Hezbollah's telecommunications system.


    "We view this agreement as a positive step towards resolving the current crisis by electing a president, forming a new government and addressing Lebanon's electoral law," she said.


    US political analysts said the agreement was a clear defeat for the government of Fouad Siniora and demonstrated Hezbollah's strength on the ground, a view dismissed by senior US officials who argue that Hezbollah's image has been damaged by the latest clashes.

    David Welch, a senior state department official, welcomed the accord negotiated in Doha, but said there was still a long way to go and the pact must be fully implemented.


    "This is not the end of this crisis. Lebanon still has to go through implementing this agreement. These are very delicate political subjects for Lebanon," he said.   


    Hezbollah influence


    Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said what emerged from the latest fighting was that Hezbollah was the dominant force in Lebanon.


    "The Siniora government very badly miscalculated. They posed a challenge [against Hezbollah] without being prepared," he said.


    "Now they are confronted with a situation where at best they are going to be perceived as weak and at worst Hezbollah's influence will suddenly grow and, with it, the problems of Lebanon in dealing with Syria and Iran."


    Paul Salem of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also said the Doha deal was a setback for the Siniora government in that Hezbollah would gain in influence.


    "The government in the end felt it had no choice," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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