BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Leaders of Lebanon’s rival political factions were divided as ever when they resumed talks Friday over the fate of the pro-Syrian president and whether Hezbollah should disarm.
Fourteen politicians, pro- and anti-Syrian, Christian and Muslim, have been trying since March to resolve some of the most contentious issues facing Lebanon since Syrian forces withdrew from its territory a year ago.
The convener of the conference, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, said after the last meeting April 4 that the issue of the presidency would top the agenda of Friday’s session.
If no agreement is reached, leaders will move on to the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons. A September 2004 U.N. resolution calls for Hezbollah to disarm but the militant guerrilla group, backed by Iran and Syria, has refused to do so. The resolution also calls on Palestinian guerillas to disarm.
President Emile Lahoud, a close ally of Syria, has refused calls to step down made by anti-Syrian groups, who don’t have enough votes in Parliament to force him out.
The last meeting before the four-week hiatus focused on both contentious issues.
Lahoud, whose term ends in 2007, has rejected demands to step down and those who contend he is too close to Syria do not have enough votes in Parliament to oust him.
Syria’s nearly three-decade military deployment in Lebanon ended April 26 last year.