No progress in Doha talks as Bush calls to help Lebanese people
Rival Lebanese factions traded accusations Sunday while meeting a second day in Qatar for high-level talks. In discussions between the government and Hizbullah-led opposition in Doha, Hizbullah's chief negotiator, Mohammed Raad, accused the government of trying to "blackmail" the opposition by bringing the subject of Hizbullah's weapons.
"No one opens the door to a debate about" Hizbullah's arms, Raad told Al-Manar Television. He said the group's "weapons and capabilities are beyond any discussion" and were not supposed to be on the table in Doha.
However, according to the AP, a member of the pro-government team said no political deal in Doha was possible without "serious progress" on the issue of Hizbullah's weapons. The Lebanese need "reassurances" the Shiite movement would not again "turn on the people" as they did last week, he told The Associated Press. The official said almost no progress had been made and that the talks were "still at the beginning."
The pro-government official, speaking to the AP, said Arab mediators were trying Sunday to reconcile the government and opposition views on power sharing in a future government. A separate committee made up of the two sides was working on fine-tuning the text of a new election law.
Raad, the Hezbollah lawmaker, said the pro-government group was seeking to cast itself as a victim of the recent fighting and that government efforts at "blackmailing will lead nowhere" in Doha. He said 14 Hizbullah fighters were killed in the latest clashes.
Meanwhile, in comments prepared for delivery before the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in the Egyptian Sharm el-Sheikh resort, U.S. President George W. Bush said the world "must stand with the people of Lebanon in their struggle to build a sovereign and independent democracy."
"This means opposing Hizbullah terrorists, funded by Iran, who recently revealed their true intentions by taking up arms against the Lebanese people," he said.