Lebanon's feuding pro- and anti-Syrian factions looked set for a compromise after an opposition rally drew protestors on to the streets of Beirut in numbers the army said were "unprecedented."
An Arab League envoy was due in Beirut Monday after announcing he had received a positive response from the pro-Syrian opposition to proposals to end a political crisis which has paralysed the government and raised fears of a return to civil strife.
The envoy, Mustafa Ismail of Sudan, told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television that he had received the "agreement in principle" of Shiite militant group Hizbullah, which has been spearheading the 10-day-old opposition protests, and was returning to Beirut for further talks.
The opposition has been demanding that the Western-backed cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora make way for a government of national unity. Siniora has accused it of trying to
Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah confirmed that the movement's leader Hassan Nasrallah had given a positive response to the Arab envoy.
"Nasrallah has informed Mustafa Ismail that Hizbullah sees positively any initiative that includes the formation of a government of national unity which secures a blocking minority," Fadlallah said.
"But in the end our position will be decided after being discussed among opposition leaders," he added.
The opposition accuses the government of weakness and corruption, and says it no longer represents the people after the six pro-Damascus ministers submitted their resignations last month.
On Sunday hundreds of thousands of protesters thronged central Beirut's two central squares, Riyad al-Solh Square and Martyrs' Square on Sunday to participate in the Hizbullah -led opposition's second rally.
'Other means are also legitimate'
In a huge show of force, the chanting crowds swamped two squares in the heart of the capital and rivers of men, women and children poured through surrounding streets demanding Siniora’s resignation.
The leader of Lebanon's Free Patriotic Party Michel Aoun told the crowd: "They claim to be the majority, but they steal from the majority and they degrade the law."
"We are waiting for a decision in the next few days, that's the last chance. We are taking non-violent means but other means are also legitimate," he said.
Great tension filled the air as the fear of the opposition intensifying its steps against the government increases.
Unlike previous rallies, in which the protesters refrained from waving Hizbullah flags, this time there was no shortage of the green and yellow flags.
The protesters want to replace the current cabinet, formed after 2005 elections, with a national unity government that they say is required by the power-sharing arrangements in force since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
Siniora, who has received messages of support from Britain, France, Germany, the United States, and some pro-Western Arab states, has pledged that what he branded an attempted "coup" by Hizbullah will fail.
Siniora's coalition has accused the opposition of seeking to block cabinet endorsement of plans for an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former premier Rafik Hariri, widely blamed on Syria.
Damascus has strongly denied any involvement.