Middle East News
Lebanese Christian leader calls for Arab force if dialogue fails
May 19, 2008, 16:39 GMT
Beirut/Doha - Samir Geagea, Christian leader of the Lebanese Forces and a member of the ruling majority, called Monday for an Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon if the Doha dialogue talks fail to end the Lebanese political crisis.
'My proposal is an Arab peacekeeping force, and I have discussed it with all the mediators and with the Arab ministerial Committee if the dialogue fails,' Geagea said. 'There is a tense calm in Lebanon today, and if we want a real stability then this is a real solution.'
Geagea criticized the response by the Hezbollah-led opposition to the Qatar proposals and said: 'The dialogue received a big blow because of the statement released by the opposition.
'We don't know if we will be able to repair the damage caused by their statement,' he said.
'Lebanon's security is an essential issue for us' following the sectarian fighting that broke out in and around Beirut on May 7, Geagea said.
Lebanese rival leaders left Lebanon last Friday for talks in Doha in a bid to end the political crisis in the country and which has turned violent, after street clashes last week between the majority and the opposition led to the killing of 82 people.
Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition on Monday rejected a proposal at Arab-mediated talks with pro-government rivals aimed at breaking a political deadlock which took the country to the brink of civil war.
The differences among the Lebanese rivals is threatening to derail the crisis talks on their fourth of day, and came after host Qatar proposed an immediate presidential vote and formation of a unity government while postponing discussion of a disputed electoral law.
In a statement issued after a meeting of its leaders, the Syria- and Iran-backed opposition refused to postpone discussion of the electoral law and said it was committed to the Arab-brokered agreement reached last week in Beirut, which led to the Doha talks.
'The Lebanese opposition stresses its adherence to... (firstly) agreeing on the representation (of parties) in the formation of a national unity government, and (secondly) to agree on a new electoral law,' the statement said.
'The agreement would be crowned by electing General Michel Suleiman as president as agreed,' it added.
The rival factions have agreed on the election of the army chief as president to succeed pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud, whose term ended in November 2007.
But differences over the government's makeup and the electoral law have blocked his election, worsening a crisis that began in November 2006 when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet of the Western- backed Prime Minister Fouad Seniora.