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Qatar, Turkey Try to Mediate Lebanon Political Crisis

  • Margaret Besheer

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, center, meets in Beirut with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, (l), and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (r), Jan 18 2011

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, center, meets in Beirut with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, (l), and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (r), Jan 18 2011

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar held talks for a second day Wednesday in Beirut, as they tried to mediate a political crisis that erupted when Hezbollah ministers pulled out of the unity government one week ago.

The political turmoil gripping Lebanon found no relief Wednesday as Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said his country had abandoned its lengthy mediation efforts to try to find a way out of the political impasse.

Meanwhile, Turkey and Qatar have stepped in, holding talks Tuesday with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, parliament speaker Nabih Berri and President Michel Suleiman. The ministers also met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah at an undisclosed location, and continued talks Wednesday with other members of the opposition, including Christian General Michel Aoun.

They are hoping to bring stability to this tiny Mediterranean nation and find a way for the two opposing sides to agree to begin binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister.

The country's already fragile political situation deteriorated last week when Hezbollah, the Shiite political party that is backed by a very strong militia, withdrew its 11 ministers from the cabinet, forcing its collapse.

Hezbollah is angry that Saad Hariri, son of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, is supporting the work of a UN-backed tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating his father's 2005 assassination.

The Hague-based tribunal's prosecutor handed over a draft indictment on Monday to the pre-trial judge. The indictment was not made public, but it has been widely reported that members of Hezbollah may be implicated in the massive truck bombing that killed Rafiq Hariri and 22 others.

Hezbollah and its political allies have said they will not accept Saad Hariri as prime minister of a new government. But Hariri's allies say they will not offer any other candidate.

The latest stalemate has the county on edge as the Lebanese wait to see if regional neighbors can reach a peaceful compromise ending the paralysis and defuse the possibility of the situation deteriorating into street fighting among opposing Sunni and Shiite factions.

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