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Rival Lebanese chiefs hold secret meeting to reinforce dialogue

Hezbollah's arsenal remains main stumbling block between the pro- and anti-Syrian factions

Rival Lebanese chiefs hold secret meeting to reinforce dialogue

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah held a secret weekend meeting with his key rival, Lebanese parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, in a bid to mend fences, a close aide to Hariri said yesterday.
Sunday's meeting - the first between Hariri and Nasrallah in more than two years - came ahead of a national dialogue session next week set to address issues dividing pro- and anti-Syrian factions, notably the fate of Hezbollah's arsenal.
Statements from Hariri's office and Hezbollah said the meeting stressed the importance of "national unity and civil peace to prevent tensions and reinforce dialogue."
They said both sides underlined the importance of maintaining cooperation and described the tone of the meeting as "open and frank."
The Hariri aide said the meeting was held at a secret location for security reasons.
Hezbollah MP Hassan Hoballah, whose party is backed by Syria and Iran, said that the meeting was "very positive, which helps strengthen national unity and lay the foundations for agreement.
"It promotes a positive climate for legislative elections in (spring) 2009," he added.
A debilitating 18-month long political crisis between Hariri's Western-backed parliamentary majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition took a dangerous turn in May when the Shiite militant group staged a spectacular takeover of mainly Sunni west Beirut.
The fighting, which brought the country to the brink of another civil war, left at least 68 people dead.
It ended after a Qatari-brokered accord that led to the formation of a national unity government in which the Hezbollah-headed opposition has a power of veto over major decisions. Rival political leaders are due to meet again on Nov. 5 for a so-called national dialogue.
Hezbollah's arsenal remains the main stumbling block in the dialogue. The group has refused to disarm, arguing that its weapons and guerrilla army are essential to defend the country against neighboring Israel.

Updated : 2022-01-19 22:16 GMT+08:00