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Arab Mediators Make Last-Ditch Bid to Salvage Lebanon Talks


Arab mediators are making a last-ditch effort to salvage talks between Lebanon's rival factions, aimed at resolving the political crisis there.

The talks in Qatar's capital, Doha, suffered a setback Monday when Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition rejected Qatari proposals to end the crisis. Qatari mediators proposed that Lebanon's ruling coalition and the opposition elect a new president and form a unity government before working on disagreements about a new election law.

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

Negotiators were expected to meet in Doha for another round of talks on Tuesday.

Qatari mediators also have proposed that 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 that 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.

The talks in Qatar also have been strained by the opposition's refusal to discuss Hezbollah's possible disarmament.

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