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Arab Mediators Set Deadline for Lebanese Crisis Talks


Arab mediators have set Wednesday as a deadline for Lebanon's rival factions to reach a deal to end months of political conflict.

Representatives of Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition and pro-Western government failed to agree on plans for a unity government during negotiations in Doha, Qatar Tuesday.

Qatar's minster of state for foreign affairs, Ahmad Abdullah al-Mahmood, told reporters that mediators have given the two sides one more day to discuss an Arab proposal to pull Lebanon back from the brink of civil war.

Lebanese negotiators have been talking since Friday.

The talks suffered a setback Monday when the Lebanese opposition rejected Qatari proposals for the political rivals to elect a new president and form a unity government before working on a new election law.

The opposition refuses to delay negotiations on the election law, which would change Lebanon's electoral boundaries. Both Lebanon's government and the opposition are seeking changes that would give them an advantage in parliamentary elections due next year.

Qatari mediators have proposed Lebanon's factions form a unity government of 30 ministers, including 13 from the ruling coalition and 10 from the opposition. Seven seats would be chosen by the newly elected president.

The opposition has said it wants more than one-third of Lebanon's cabinet posts. Both sides have agreed army chief Michel Suleiman should fill the post of president, which has been vacant since last November.

The Arab League intervened in Lebanon's political crisis last week, after Hezbollah fighters swept across Beirut and attacked government supporters. At least 67 people were killed in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon.

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

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