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Arab League's Sec-Gen Return to Beirut Subject to Conditions - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- An Arab diplomatic source concerned with the current state of affairs in Lebanon told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “The return of Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa to Beirut is subject to the condition that the regional Arab sides concerned with dealing directly with the Lebanese crisis would implement four points at the forefront of which is that the only issue to be discussed is the issue of the ratio of the representation of the majority and the opposition in the government.

“The second point is, “The Arab sides concerned with dealing directly with the Lebanese dossier should work toward holding a meeting for the top leaders of the majority and the opposition to discuss this disputed point, which is the mechanism ratified by the Arab foreign ministers in their meeting the day before yesterday.” The source considers it probable that “this meeting will include Saad al-Hariri as a representative of the majority, and Gen Michel Aoun as the opposition representative.

The source said, “The third point is the agreement that the election of Gen Michel Suleiman should go through without any constitutional obstacles. As for the fourth and final point, it is that if there is any dispute over the policy of the upcoming government and its statement, the reference point will be the statement of the current government, on the basis that this current government is also a national unity one, and its statement was drawn up on the basis of an agreement between most of the majority and opposition powers, including Hezbollah and Amal Movement. This is in order not to get into a new crisis over the statement of the new government.”

The source pointed out that the aim of these conditions is to restrict the crisis to a single disputed point, namely the volume of the representation of each bloc in the government. This dispute can be resolved through a compromise between the two sides; this is the viewpoint of the Arab League secretary general, which he expressed after the latest meeting of the Arab foreign ministers when he said that the solution ought to be a reconciliatory one, i.e. the opinion of neither side should prevail.

Moreover, the Lebanese ambassador to the Arab League denied categorically that the date of Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa’s visit to Beirut had been actually fixed. At the same time, a senior Arab diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat that fixing the date of Musa’s visit to the Lebanese capital remained dependent on the provision of the four guarantees to which he (the source) referred.

On the other hand, Arab diplomatic sources that participated in the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers revealed that arguments, sometimes sharp and at other times lengthy, took place among the Arab foreign ministers over the situation in Lebanon and the Arab initiative aimed at resolving the crisis there. The sources said, “The ministers gave maximum priority to the issue of the Lebanese choosing their next president, and the other problems could be solved one by one after that. However Syria insisted on its current stance of the need to implement the Arab initiative as a whole, and warned against the possibility that the Arab initiative would meet the same fate as its French counterpart.”

In exclusive statements to Asharq al-Awsat, the sources that refused to be identified consider that the Arab foreign ministers have thrown the burning Lebanese ball back in the court of the Arab League secretary-general as they commissioned him in their meeting of the day before yesterday in Cairo “to deal with the greatest complication of the crisis in Lebanon, namely the ratio of representation in the government through a meeting that gathers the Lebanese leaders of both the majority and the opposition.” However, Musa returned the ball again to the court of the ministers when at the press conference, which was held after the meting, he called on the Arab countries concerned, and that have historical relations with Lebanon “to facilitate and encourage meetings between the Lebanese leaders on the basis that these meetings are the best mechanism to resolve the crisis according to the ministerial statement.”

The sources explained that the meeting was governed by the spirit of managing the crisis rather than exploding it in the light of the difficulty of resolving it completely. The sources said, “Syria also has reservations over the idea that the Arab ministers would interpret their initiative, and preferred that the details of the representation numbers in the hoped for Lebanese government are left to the Lebanese themselves to sort out, and Syria and Saudi Arabia accepted this direction and did not oppose it.”

In his turn, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalqam called for not linking the holding of the Arab summit in Beirut to the resolution of the Lebanese crisis. Shalqam said, “This cannot be accepted.”

The chairman of the Algerian delegation, who is the chairman of the session, supported the call of the Libyan minister, while none of the other foreign minister commented on this issue.

The sources revealed that there would be a positive Syrian move toward Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan within the next three days, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would send Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualim to these countries to deliver a message for their attention, and to deliver the invitation to the Arab summit to be held in Syria from 29 to 30 March 2008.

Musa has warned that the Arabs will adopt a different stance if Lebanese Army Commander Gen Michel Suleiman is not elected as president on11 February. Musa has not explained the nature of the measure that might be adopted by the Arab countries. However Arab diplomatic sources say that if the Lebanese crisis is not settled before the upcoming Arab summit, this will be reflected on the Arab attendance of this summit.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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