Doha (Agencies:22/5/2008): Rival Lebanese leaders signed a deal yesterday to end 18 months of political conflict that had threatened to push the country to a new civil war. The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said yesterday that the peace deal was made possible because all the parties involved “rose above their sentiments” and proved their commitment to the Lebanese people.
The deal, announced after days of tense talks in Doha, calls for the election of army chief Michel Sleiman as president, the formation of a unity government in which the opposition has a veto, a new election law and a ban on the use of weapons in internal conflicts.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri was to convene lawmakers within 24 hours for the vote but a senior Siniora aide said parliament would now meet on Sunday.
The rival factions had agreed last year on electing Sleiman as the successor to Damascus Emile Lahoud, who stepped down at the end of his term in November.
But the Sunni-led government and the mainly Shiite opposition differed over power-sharing and a new electoral law, and parliament has previously put off 19 attempts to elect a successor to Lahoud.
The ruling majority will have 16 seats in the cabinet and be able to choose the prime minister, while the opposition will have 11 seats with the power of veto.
Another three posts will be nominated by the elected president, who under Lebanon’s multi-confessional system must be a Maronite Christian.
Foreign backers of both sides, including the US, France, Iran and Syria, welcomed the deal. Saudi Arabia was "happy" about the agreement; the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon was quoted as saying by the National News Agency. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was a "positive step" towards resolving the crisis.