DOHA (AFP): 21/5/2008 – Rival Lebanese leaders reached an agreement early today in Arab-mediated crisis talks held in Doha to end a political feud that nearly drove the country to a new civil war, an opposition MP said.
"An agreement has been reached," between the Western-backed pro-government majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition, MP Ali Hasan Khalil told reporters.
"We expect a (parliamentary) vote to elect a president on Thursday or Friday," he said ahead of a Wednesday deadline for the Doha talks to wrap up.
The details of the agreement were not revealed, but another opposition delegate who requested not to be named had said earlier that a joint committee formed to iron out differences over a decisive electoral law for parliamentary polls due next year had been "making final touches to a deal."
Lebanese rivals agreed last year on electing army chief General Michel Sleiman as a successor to Emile Lahoud, who stepped down at the end of his term in November.
But they have differed over shares in a proposed unity government and the electoral law.
The talks hung in the balance yesterday (Tuesday) after Qatari hosts announced a Wednesday deadline to receive responses to two proposals put forward by an Arab ministerial committee led by Qatar.
Qatar had put forward a compromise proposal calling for an immediate parliamentary vote to elect Sleiman as president and the formation of a unity government while postponing talks on a new electoral law, a government delegate said earlier.
The opposition refused to put off discussion of the disputed electoral law, and insisted on getting a "blocking minority" in a proposed unity government.
According to the government delegate, a second proposal suggested a return to an electoral law adopted in 1960, which is no longer in force. That would require amendments to disputed constituency boundaries in the capital Beirut — the bedrock of support for Sunni parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri.
Rival parties aim to secure as many as possible of the capital’s 19 seats in the 128-member parliament.
Both proposals also offered the opposition the long-demanded blocking minority, the same delegate said.
The 18-month-old political deadlock erupted into bitter sectarian fighting earlier this month that saw 65 people killed and during which Hezbollah and its Shiite allies briefly seized Sunni areas of mainly Muslim west Beirut.