Parties from across Lebanon's political spectrum gathered for unprecedented talks in a bid to find unity amid rifts over Syrian influence in the country. A total of 14 groups, Christian and Muslim, pro- and anti-Syrian, met for the week-long roundtable session in the parliament building, the first such meeting without Syrian supervision in over 30 years.
The national dialogue was launched by pro-Syrian parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, AFP reported. Other participants include Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, former general Michel Aoun, Christian leader Samir Geagea and Hizbullah's chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
An official source said the demand to disarm Hizbullah would be discussed as well as mounting calls for pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud to step down.
Publisher and Christian MP Ghassan Tueni, whose anti-Syrian MP son was murdered in a Beirut bombing last December, and pro-Syrian Christian MP Michel Murr were also at the meeting. Following the first closed session of the dialogue, Berri told reporters that politicians discussed setting up an international tribunal to try ex-premier Rafic al Hariri's suspected killers. He added the roundtable discussions were serious and positive despite the differences in opinion among the participants.