7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
World News

Lebanon crisis deal blow

DOHA: Tension mounted on yesterday's second day of talks between rival Lebanese leaders trying to end a feud that pushed their country towards all-out sectarian war, as politicians traded charges over the divisive issue of Hizbollah arms.

The Qatari hosts of the Arab-brokered talks defused a clash over the weaponry of the powerful Syria and Iran-backed Shi'ite militia by offering to come up with a proposal on the issue as the negotiators focused on other matters.

Lebanon's rival factions agreed to talk to try to resolve a protracted political impasse which erupted into deadly sectarian fighting and saw Hizbollah and its allies temporarily seize swathes of west Beirut.

But after a virtual blackout on the progress of side talks taking place behind closed doors, several leading delegates made conflicting public statements, and Qatar's Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani stepped in yesterday, meeting representatives of both sides.

The head of the Hizbollah delegation, MP Mohammed Raad, seemingly provoked the parliamentary majority by saying in televised remarks that "the issue of the resistance, its arms and capabilities is not up for discussion in Doha."

Pro-government delegates hit back.

"If the arms issue is not specifically addressed... then there will be nothing" achieved, Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat said.

"The issue of weapons is crucial. The Lebanese people will not accept anything less than the announcement of a clear framework to address this matter, so the debate can continue in Beirut," he said.

Lebanon's former president Amin Gemayel, a leader of the pro-government group, warned against a deal similar to the 1969 Cairo agreement which gave the Palestine Liberation Organisation the right to launch operations from Lebanon against Israel.

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