LEBANON AGREES NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT – ‘issue of Hezbollah weapons’ postponed

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Qatar formally announced on Wednesday a deal between Lebanon’s opposition and ruling bloc to end an 18-month political crisis that will see Army commander General Michel Suleiman elected as president within 24 hours, reported Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV on Wednesday.

The agreement, announced by Qatari FM Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem al- Thani, also stipulates that Lebanese leaders would not use arms for political gains.

‘The agreement also calls for re-launching the dialogue under the management of the Lebanese president and ending the use of the language of sectarianism,’ Sheikh Hamad said.

The agreement also said that a government will be formed based on a 16-11-3 formula (16 for the ruling bloc, 11 for the opposition and 3 to be chosen by the president), adoption of the Qada-based 1960 electoral law with Beirut divided into three constituencies:

l The first electoral district comprising Ashrafiye, Rmeil and Saifi with five seats: Two Armenians, one Maronite, one Orthodox and one Catholic.

l The second electoral district comprising Bashoura, Medawwar and Marfa’ with four seats: One Sunni, one Shi’ite and two Armenians.

l The third electoral district comprising Mazraa, Msaytbe, Ras Beirut, Mina el Hosn, Zaqa el Blat and Dar el Mrayseh with ten seats: Five Sunnis, one Shi’ite, one Druz, one Orthodox, one Evangelical and one for the minorities.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa said that ‘the conference has succeeded because all the parties shouldered their responsibilities courageously.’

A senior opposition delegate told the Assafir daily that ‘there is no problem with the new government’s Policy Statement which will underline the context of the current government’s Statement, stress on the respect of international resolutions, tackle the issue of not using weapons to achieve political gains and stress on the commitment to the decisions reached during the 2006 dialogue.’

For his part, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, who spoke after Sheikh Hamad, thanked Qatar for the effort it exerted alongside the Arab League to solve the crisis in this Arab country.

‘We have proven that the no victor – no vanquished formula in Lebanon is the road to safety,’ Mussa said.

Speaking afterwards, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri thanked Qatar for hosting the dialogue and the great role it played to reach this agreement.

‘10,452km2 were not enough to bring us together, but a Qatari plane managed to do so,’ Berri said.

To express gratitude Berri said that the opposition wishes to thank Qatar and ‘officially end the sit-in in downtown Beirut as of today.’

As soon as Berri finished his statement, opposition members began dismantling the camp.

Future Movement Leader Sa’d al-Hariri stated that deliberations over Hezbollah’s weapons will be postponed, and that priority has been given to the implementation of what he described as the achievement accomplished in Doha.

Hariri said: ‘We have always said that the weapons issue is a national and Lebanese issue, and there is Arab oversight, Arab League oversight, over this issue.

‘We will leave this issue for the future; let us not rush into anything, and let us focus on this achievement that has been accomplished by the Lebanese, the Arab League, the state of Qatar, Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and all the foreign ministers who were present.’

The head of the unconstitutional government Fu’ad Siniora for his part, thanked in a long speech the state of Qatar for the achievement.

‘The agreement we reached is an exceptional agreement amid exceptional circumstances for an exceptional phase. . . . We want Arab states to help us redress Lebanon’s relations with sister Syria,’ Siniora said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said from the Bahraini capital Manamah that Damascus backs the agreement reached between Lebanese leaders in Qatar.

‘The agreement will put an end to the political crisis in Lebanon,’ Moallem said.

‘We praise the Arab Committee for its effort and we stress the importance of the agreement.

‘Syria supports everything that the Lebanese agree on because security and stability in Lebanon is vital and important to Syria’s security and stability,’ he added.

For his part, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Abdul Aziz Khoja, said that Riyadh supports the agreement reached between rival leaders.

‘We are very happy that this accord has been reached,’ he added.

Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Rida Shibani, also announced his country’s support for the Doha agreement.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohamad Ali Hosseini congratulated all Lebanese groups, regional countries and the Arab League, and especially the Qatari government for reaching the agreement.

‘The Islamic Republic of Iran hopes that the Doha accord . . . will provide a blossoming and brilliant future for the Lebanese people and be the prelude to freeing the rest of the Lebanese territory’ from Israeli occupation, the ISNA news agency quoted Hosseini as saying.

In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit hailed Wednesday’s deal to end the long-running crisis in Lebanon and called for the accord to be faithfully implemented.

‘The agreement ends a complicated crisis which could have destroyed Lebanon’s stability had it not been for the wisdom of certain Lebanese politicians and the rapid Arab intervention,’ he said.

The United States welcomed Wednesday’s accord between Lebanese leaders as a positive step, a State Department official said.

‘That this agreement has been reached in Doha is really a welcome development,’ David Welch, deputy secretary for Near Eastern affairs, told reporters.

‘It is a necessary and positive step toward accomplishing what the Arab League’s initiative on Lebanon was designed to do,’ electing a president of Lebanon, forming a new government and revising the electoral law, he said.

Former colonial power. France hailed the agreememt as a success.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the agreement as ‘a great success for Lebanon and the Lebanese, who have never lacked courage and patience despite the trials they have been through,’ calling for it to be ‘fully implemented.’

In a statement, Sarkozy paid tribute to the ‘decisive role’ played by Qatar and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa.

‘France, which has invested much effort in the search for a solution to the Lebanese crisis, never stopped backing the process that led to this agreement,’ Sarkozy added.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner hailed the deal as an ‘essential step’ to returning the Middle East nation to ‘unity, stability and independence’, calling on ‘all Lebanese’ to strive for national reconciliation.

The French minister, who had travelled to Lebanon seven times since taking office last year, said he was ‘personally very happy about this outcome for which I have worked continuously.’