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Arab League Approves Plan to End Lebanese Political Crisis


The secretary general of the Arab League says he is heading for Beirut this week for talks on a new plan to end the Lebanese political crisis. VOA Middle East Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from Cairo.

Arab League foreign ministers have approved a new proposal to end the political stalemate that has left Lebanon without a president for more than six weeks.

At a special session in Cairo, they endorsed the choice of army chief General Michel Suleiman as Lebanese president, and called for his immediate election.

The two feuding political factions in Lebanon have agreed that Michel should be the next president, but the parliamentary vote to elect him has been repeatedly delayed as factions continue fighting over other political issues, including the shape of the next government.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the league's proposal to end the standoff is based on three points.

He said it calls for election of a president, agreement on a national unity government, and other measures including a new electoral law to be passed after the government is formed.

The plan says the national unity government should be structured so that no one faction can impose or block a decision. It also strengthens the powers of the president, giving him the role of settling contested cabinet decisions.

Secretary General Moussa said he would be going to Beirut in the next few days for talks on the proposal.

He said the Arab League will move seriously, and will not allow the matter to drag on from week to week, from delay to delay, or from tension to tension.

The plan has wide support among Arab states and was welcomed by a number of key factions in Lebanon.

Moussa said it is supported by Syria, which is a main backer of the Lebanese opposition.

In Beirut, the ruling March 14 coalition's leader, Saad Hariri, said it gives Lebanon a new chance to elect a consensus president.

Lebanese media quoted the parliamentary speaker and key opposition figure Nabih Berri as also approving of the plan. But reports said the opposition group Hezbollah was responding more cautiously, and asking for clarification on some points.