DOHA, Qatar (AFP-18/5/2008):- Tension mounted on Sunday’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 Hezbollah arms.
After a virtual blackout on the progress of side talks taking place behind closed doors, HH the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani stepped in on Sunday, meeting representatives of both sides.
Following the meeting between HH the Emir and the main leaders of the rival factions, a delegate attending the meeting told AFP that Qatar proposed the formation of a unity government as a possible way out of the current crisis in Lebanon. The Qatari suggestion was to postpone a decision over a disputed electoral law and move directly to the election of army chief Michel Sleiman as Lebanese president, the delegate said.
It also proposed forming a unity government of 30 ministers, with 13 ministers from the pro-Western parliamentary majority, 10 from the opposition and seven to be chosen by the elected president.
Although the rival factions agree on electing Sleiman as a president to succeed former president Emile Lahoud, whose term ended in November, they disagree on power-sharing in a unity government. The opposition has previously insisted on holding more than a third of the cabinet portfolios.
Parliament has failed to convene to elect a new president, exacerbating a crisis that began in November 2006 when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
It is due to meet for the 20th time on June 10 to elect a president.
The 14 political leaders in Qatar did not meet again after a first session on Saturday. Instead there was a meeting of a joint committee tasked with addressing an electoral law for a parliamentary poll due next year.
The factions differ on constituency boundaries, fearing they would lose parliamentary seats from demographic changes which would follow any alterations. In addition to the electoral law, another committee was formed to discuss a proposed unity government.
Siniora is attending the Doha dialogue, as are parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and a key government ally, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is not there, reportedly due to security concerns, but other opposition leaders present include parliament speaker Nabih Berri and Christian leader Michel Aoun.