Lebanon divisions threaten Arab League chief Mussa's new mission

Other News Materials 26 February 2008 16:00 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Arab League Chief Amr Mussa left Beirut Monday with no breakthrough after the majority and the opposition rejected his suggestion for the makeup of the cabinet during a meeting to end the 15-month-long political crisis in Lebanon.

According to sources close to the ruling majority, Mussa proposed "a 13 + 10 + 7" government under the new president: "Thirteen for the majority, 10 for the opposition and seven members loyal to the president."

His suggestion came during Monday's meeting that grouped, representatives of the anti-Syrian March 14 parliamentary majority, former president Amin Gemayel and head of the majority Saad Hariri, as well as Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, representing his allies Hezbollah.

The source said Aoun insisted on three proposals during the meeting, saying the opposition could accept any of them: "11 ministers for the anti-government camp, the adoption of the 10 + 10 + 10 formula on condition the president guarantees consensus on major decisions, or a 13 + 10 + 7 formula under which the president chooses as part of his share one minister out of three suggested by the opposition."

The majority sources added that Aoun's three suggestions lead to veto power, a move rejected by the pro-government camp.

They said the majority insisted on a "13 + 10 + 7" formula with no conditions and Hariri suggested the election of a president based on the Arab Initiative followed by the formation of a government.

Opposition sources reiterated that the March 14 forces were insisting on holding into power.

The Beirut media said that the two sides agreed to avoid verbal accusations and work on preventing any moves that could cause the tense situation to further deteriorate.

Mussa said on Monday that all factions agreed to the first clause of the Arab initiative that calls for the election of Army Commander General Michel Suleiman as president.

However, he said, differences persisted on structure of the forthcoming cabinet. "It is a question of mathematics," he said.

"I would have liked to leave with a comprehensive paper or a draft agreement but it became clear that more time is needed," Mussa said.

No date has been set for further talks, which indicates that there has been no breakthrough.

A parliamentary session to elect Lebanon's president due on Tuesday was postponed until March 11 owing to continued deadlock between rival political leaders.

Lebanon has been without a president since November, when pro- Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his mandate with no elected successor because of the deadlock between the pro- and anti- Syrian camps.