DOHA - Lebanon’s rival leaders tackled divisive issues at the heart of their political crisis on Saturday at Qatari-mediated talks aimed at pulling their country back from the brink of a new civil war.
Government and opposition leaders left the conference room at a Doha hotel separately, after 90 minutes of tense talks chaired by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani.
But rival delegates said they agreed to form a six-member committee that would lay the framework for a new election law and, once that is achieved, move onto one of the most divisive issues on the agenda – the framework of the government.
The committee was already meeting while Sheikh Hamad held side consultations to nudge rival leaders closer to a deal ending a crisis that has paralyzed the government for 18 months and left Lebanon with no president since November.
Qatari Prime Minister “offered to come up with a proposal on the Hezbollah weaponry issue and present it to the two parties,” a pro-government delegate told AFP. “The two sides have agreed to that,” he added following the first session of talks by 14 representatives of the Lebanon government and the Hezbollah-led opposition. Host Qatar made the offer after leaders of the ruling parliamentary majority initially insisted without success on including the arms question on the agenda, said the delegate, requesting anonymity. In addition to the electoral law, the leaders are expected to discuss a proposed unity government.
“The impression, thank God, from the session, shows the desire among all the factions to reach an understanding ... that will bring us to the beginning of a solution to this crisis,” Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Voice of Lebanon radio.