Qatar talks: Lebanese leaders reach agreement

Published May 21st, 2008 - 06:27 GMT

Lebanese parties reached an agreement in Doha early Wednesday to end a long-running political crisis. "An agreement has been reached," between the pro-government majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition, MP Ali Hasan Khalil told reporters.


The agreement calls for electing a president immediately, formation of a government based on a 16-11-3 formula (16 for the majority, 11 for the opposition and 3 to be chosen by the president), adoption of the Qada-based 1960 electoral law as Beirut is divided into three constituencies ( 5 – 4 – 10) for one time only.

"We expect a (parliamentary) vote to elect a president on Thursday or Friday," he said, according to AFP. Another opposition delegate had said earlier that a joint committee formed to iron out differences over a decisive electoral law for parliamentary polls due next year had been "making final touches to a deal."


The talks hung in the balance Tuesday after Qatari hosts announced a Wednesday deadline to receive responses to two proposals put forward by an Arab ministerial committee led by Qatar. Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani intervened personally late Tuesday, arriving at the Doha hotel for meetings with leaders of both Lebanese camps. The emir had visited Saudi Arabia earlier in the day, the AP reported.


Qatar had put forward a compromise proposal calling for an immediate parliamentary vote to elect Gen. Michel Suleiman as president and the formation of a unity government while postponing talks on a new electoral law, a government delegate said earlier. Future TV, representing the parliamentary majority, quoted Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh as saying the election of a president would take place in Beirut within 48 hours.


According to the government delegate, a second proposal suggested a return to an electoral law adopted in 1960, which is no longer in force. That would require amendments to disputed constituency boundaries in the capital Beirut -- the bedrock of support for Sunni parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri.


Both proposals also offered the opposition the long-demanded blocking minority, the same delegate said. Opposition television stations also said the agreement would give the opposition veto power in a national unity government, a key demand rejected by the government majority for the past 18 months.


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