Hizbullah gets veto power in unity government
Major triumph for Lebanese opposition: All demands made by Nasrallah materialized in breakthrough agreement between feuding factions announced by Arab mediators after five days of talks in Qatar to end Lebanon's 18-month political crisis; Damascus welcomes deal
Hizbullah strikes another achievement at the end of a particularly severe round of violence in Lebanon : Arab mediators have announced a breakthrough deal between feuding Lebanese factions struck after five days of talks in Qatar to end Lebanon's 18-month political crisis.
As part of the deal, 11 of the 30 ministers in a national unity government in Beirut will be Hizbullah members, giving the Shiite organization the right to veto any decision. This was one of the main demands made by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah during the recent crisis.
Sixteen of Lebanon's current ministers will serve in the new government, and another three will serve on behalf of the president. Hizbullah agreed to compromise on its demand to establish an interim government and hold elections, and had refused at first to settle for only one-third of the government members.
The sides also agreed to appoint Lebanon's army commander, General Michel Suleiman, the next Lebanese president.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said at a ceremony Wednesday in Doha that the agreement is be "carried out immediately" and that the election of a new president of Lebanon will follow within 24 hours.
Another important achievement for Hizbullah was an amendment to the current election law: The sides agreed to return to the 1960 Election Law, which includes a change in the election districts, and particularly in the Beirut district which will be divided in three. The current law allowed the anti-Syrian camp to win the elections.
Beirut clashes (Photo: AP)
And what about Hizbullah's weapons? The issue was not seriously discussed, and the sides only agreed "not to use weapons for political purposes." It was also agreed to resume the dialogue "in order to bolster the state's institutions."
Opposition-allied Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also spoke at the ceremony, saying an opposition tent encampment, which has been going on for over a year in downtown Beirut across from the government building, will be dismantled following the deal.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora praised the Arab League and Qatar for their mediation, which "serves Lebanon and the neighboring sister country – Syria." He called on all factions "to renounce violence and promise not to use weapons again in future political disputes. We must accept the other and hold a cultural and democratic dialogue."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem rushed to welcome the Doha agreement. Saed Hariri, one of Hizbullah's rivals in Lebanon, also supported it. Despite the opposition's clear achievements, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa concluded that "There are no winners and no losers in this document."
Hizbullah, a group backed by Iran and Syria, increased pressure on the ruling alliance this month by routing its followers in a military campaign. The Qatari-led negotiations built on mediation that ended violence which killed 81.
Worst crisis since civil war
It was Lebanon's worst civil conflict since the 1975-1990 war and exacerbated tensions between Shiites loyal to Hizbullah and Druze and Sunni followers of the ruling coalition.
Syria, a close ally of Iran, was forced to withdraw troops from Lebanon in 2005 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
The United States has held up the withdrawal as a foreign policy success story.
But Hizbullah's military campaign this month was a major blow to US policy in Lebanon and forced Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government to rescind two measures targeting the Iranian-backed group.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report