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Arab League chief again fails to break Lebanese presidential deadlock

Arab League chief again fails to break Lebanese presidential deadlock

The head of the Arab League on Monday failed again to break Lebanon's three-month presidential deadlock that now appears to be threatening an upcoming Arab summit in Syria.
The crisis over electing Lebanon's next president has compounded a yearlong fierce power struggle between the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the opposition led by the militant Hezbollah group.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters after a meeting between rival Lebanese factions Monday that agreements were reached over "a large number of points," but no decision was made on the contentious issue of how to divide the number of seats in the future Cabinet.
Though the two sides have agreed to elect army commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, as president, the vote has been held up by the opposition's demand for veto power in the future Cabinet. The government rejects the demand.
With no breakthrough in sight, a parliament session to elect Suleiman set for Tuesday was likely to be postponed again _ the 15th such delay in three months.
"I would have liked to leave with a comprehensive paper or a draft agreement, but it became clear that more time is needed," Moussa said. He did not say if more meetings between the two sides would be held in the near future.
Moussa's visit coincided with a weekend meeting in Riyadh between the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both Arab heavyweights and Saniora government supporters.
Mideast analysts believe Cairo and Riyadh are seeking to condition their attendance at an Arab summit in Damascus, Syria, in late March with a resolution to the Lebanese presidential deadlock.
Arab media have speculated that Cairo and Riyadh could threaten to boycott the summit as a way of pressuring rival Syria, which wields great influence over the Hezbollah-led opposition, to make concessions in Lebanon.
This has added significance to Moussa's mediation _ his fourth such joint meeting in Lebanon between the feuding sides.
Saudi-Syrian political tensions over Lebanon and other issues have hindered efforts to reach a political solution in this country, with each side backing an opposing camp.
Moussa has visited Lebanon several times to try to push for an Arab plan to end the crisis and elect Suleiman as a compromise candidate for president to fill a post vacant since President Emile Lahoud's term ended last November.
The pan-Arab, Saudi-owned Al Hayat newspaper reported Monday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh stressed the need to elect a Lebanese president before the Damascus summit. The Lebanese As-Safir daily, which is close to the opposition, said the two called for a "breakthrough" in the crisis before the summit.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have previously called on Syria to facilitate the presidential vote.
The United States and the anti-Syrian coalition in Lebanon have accused Damascus of blocking the presidential election. Syria has denied the charge.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned last month that the summit's success hinged largely on the Lebanese presidential issue being resolved.
Syrian government newspaper Al-Thawra said in an editorial Monday that Damascus would spare no effort over the summit and was "optimistic the attendance of all Arab leaders ... would be the clearest response to all attempts to interfere" in the matter.


Updated : 2021-04-12 22:24 GMT+08:00