Accessibility links

Factions Negotiate End to Lebanese Political Crisis


The leaders of Lebanon's political factions, meeting in Doha, have reached a deal to end their long-running political crisis, which erupted into sectarian clashes earlier this month, that killed at least 65 people. The agreement paves the way for the election of a new president, which is expected within days. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from Beirut.

It took five days of talks in Qatar, but Lebanese political leaders finally reached a deal to end the political crisis that has divided the country for the last year and a half and led to the worst internal fighting since the end of the civil war.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani read the text of the agreement.

He says the speaker of the parliament will call for General Michel Suleiman to be elected president.

Suleiman is the commander of the Lebanese army. His election as president has been delayed for months, because the two sides could not agree on a unity government. Lebanon has not had a president since November, when the pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud left office.

There were conflicting reports on when parliament would actually meet to elect Suleiman, but it is expected to happen Sunday.

The deal signed in Doha gives the opposition 11 seats in the Beirut cabinet, enough to veto any cabinet decisions, meeting one of the opposition's key demands. Sixteen cabinet posts will go to the ruling March 14 coalition and another three seats will be filled by the new president.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the opposition Amal party, says the opposition will begin lifting their protest in central Beirut.

Opposition supporters in the Lebanese capital have begun dismantling the protest camp that has stood outside the prime minister's office for 18 months, as onlookers watched from the rooftops and balconies of nearby buildings.

For a while, the talks in Doha bogged down over changes to the electoral law -- especially the division of parliament seats.

Both sides have pledged not to use violence to settle their political disputes.

Prime Minister Siniora says the Lebanese people want to live together and have no other choice.

He says internal unity offers Lebanon's only hope.

People in Lebanon are welcoming the deal and the end of the political crisis that has so badly divided the country. A few bursts of celebratory gunfire could be heard in Beirut and fireworks were reported to have been set off in General Suleiman's hometown.

But analysts warn that several of the most critical issues were not settled in Doha and will require further negotiations to keep the fragile new unity government from collapsing.


XS
SM
MD
LG