Lebanon talks move to Qatar as normalcy returning to Lebanese life
Rival Lebanese leaders headed for Qatar on Friday aiming to end a political conflict that pushed the country to the brink of a new civil war. Leaders of the ruling coalition and the Hizbullah-led opposition will try to forge a deal to end the standoff which has paralysed government for 18 months and left Lebanon without a president since November.
An Arab League mediation mission sealed an agreement on Thursday which ended fighting between ruling coalition supporters and Hizbullah. As part of the deal, the sides agreed to meet in Doha. According to the AP, political sources said on Friday that substantial talks in the Qatari capital were unlikely to start before Saturday. The pro-opposition Ad Diyar newspaper on Friday said Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah would not go to Doha for security considerations. It said Hizbullah MPs Mohammed Raad, Mohammed Fneish and Hussein Hajj Hassan would represent him at the talks.
Syria said it supported the Qatari-led initiative. "This step could be a real chance to save Lebanon from the dangers that threaten it," Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told the Beirut-based as-Safir daily. "We are absolutely with the initiative."
"The atmosphere is excellent and we will put our efforts into reaching a solution which is in the interest of all Lebanese," Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, an opposition leader, told as-Safir.
Meanwhile, life returned to normal in Beirut and other parts of the country, eyewitnesses said Friday. Shops, businesses and many schools reoped. In addition, there was a huge deployment of the Lebanese army in armored-personnel vehicles across the capital.