BEIRUT (Reuters) – Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Thursday he had made progress toward a deal to resolve Lebanon’s political crisis, but that there was no agreement.
“There has been progress and movement on several issues. There is room for an understanding and there are issues that require more effort,” Moussa told a news conference before leaving Beirut.
The Hezbollah-led opposition has threatened to escalate a campaign of street protests to demand the anti-Syrian majority coalition give it a decisive say in government.
It has already brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets of Beirut twice in the past two weeks. Thousands have been staging a round-the-clock protest in central Beirut since December 1 after the opposition declared Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s cabinet illegitimate.
The anti-Syrian leaders who control the cabinet have refused to yield. They say giving in would allow more Syrian and Iranian influence.
The Arab League secretary-general, who has shuttled between leaders over the past three days, said the league’s initiative would continue and that he would return to Beirut within days.
He said that he hoped there would be an agreement to resolve the crisis based on the principle of “no victor, no vanquished.”
Moussa said he hoped that there would be a period of cooling off of tensions that would include an end to street protests.
An Arab League envoy, Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail, told the same news conference the two-week-old opposition sit-in in central Beirut would continue but that there should be no mass demonstrations.
There are fears the worsening standoff could degenerate into sectarian violence in a country still trying to recover from a 1975-90 civil war.
A senior Lebanese political source said earlier that Moussa had failed to broker a deal. Moussa said that assessment was not accurate and he hoped for a deal in two weeks.
Lebanese political sources said the centerpiece of Moussa’s proposals was a plan to expand Siniora’s depleted cabinet to 30 ministers from its original number of 24.
In the proposed expansion, the majority coalition would have 19 ministers, the opposition 10 and there would be one neutral minister. Who would name that minister was one stumbling block.
A third plus one of the ministers can block decisions.
Hezbollah accuses Siniora and some allies of trying to weaken the group during a war with Israel in July and August.
Siniora has accused Hezbollah of trying to derail a planned tribunal to try suspected killers of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and to stage a coup after the war.
Six opposition ministers resigned from government last month after talks on a unity government collapsed.