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Rival Leaders in Lebanon Take Step Toward Ending Crisis 


Lebanon's rival political leaders have agreed to form a committee to begin drafting a new electoral law for parliamentary polls scheduled for next year.

The leaders met Saturday in Qatar's capital, Doha, for high-level talks aimed at pulling Lebanon back from the brink of a new civil war.

Officials at the talks say representatives from Lebanon's opposition and U.S.-backed government agreed to form a six-member committee to lay the framework for the new law. But the two sides disagreed on the divisive issue of disarming the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Qatar's prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who is hosting the talks, intervened to end that disagreement. He called on the two sides to postpone debate on the weapons issue until after leaders end a political stalemate.

The two Lebanese factions agreed Thursday to an Arab League proposal, brokered by Qatar's prime minister to resume talks on electing a new president and forming a unity government.

Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud stepped down November 23 at the end of his term.

The government and opposition have agreed on the election of army commander General Michel Suleiman as president, but they differ on the composition of a new government.

Recent clashes between the rival factions killed at least 65 people and wounded 200 others.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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