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Lebanese file temporarily delegated to Iran by Russia

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during second joint high committee meeting between Kuwait and Iran at the foreign ministry in Kuwait city on December 1, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT)

The recent visit by Syrian Prime Minister Wael Halqi to Tehran offered an opportunity to survey in detail the contents of the agreement with Iran on the nuclear file, which includes secret annexes in addition to the atomic issue.

The deal between the West and Iran appears to have raised doubts among Arab states, which explained the tour that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif undertook to Arab and Islamic capitals, at the forefront of which was the Gulf Cooperation Council and, of course, Saudi Arabia.

Informed sources said that it would not be possible to glean a clear picture of the coming period on the internal and regional scenes before finding out the results of Zarif’s tour in the next few days.

The sources said the visit by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed to Tehran as an emissary of the GCC states might speed up the process of reaching Arab-Iranian agreement on many regional issues, including of course Lebanon.

Diplomatic sources indicate the Lebanese file has been temporarily delegated to the Iranian administration by Russia, in order for it to work on finding solutions to ongoing problems, amid the preoccupation by Moscow, Washington and other major capitals with the Syrian crisis.

The diplomatic sources said that international and regional observers wanted to know whether Iran would be able to integrate with its Gulf state neighbors, who in the past have declared a unified position on Syria. But the sources expressed fears that the conservative elements in Iran, who consider themselves disadvantaged by the nuclear agreement, will use the time period before the signing of a final agreement to undermine the deal.

Two different currents have emerged in Iran – one is moderate, open and wants dialogue and is represented by President Hassan Rouhani, and the other is conservative.

But the diplomatic sources said that the Saudis and Iranians agree on stabilizing the Lebanese scene, amid an international, American, regional and Iranian position advocating de-escalation in Lebanon and setting the scene for a new economic reality based on exploiting the offshore oil reserves in the Lebanese and Israeli waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The effect of Iran’s role in revitalizing its relationship with its Arab neighbors is likely to have echoes in Lebanon, according to the sources, who point to confirmation that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri plans to relaunch his consultations and communications with all political factions, particularly the March 14 bloc.

These contacts are aimed at defusing internal tensions and creating a positive atmosphere to help find consensus on a new unity government, after it became clear a government that comprised one faction and that marginalized any political grouping in the country was unworkable.

A meeting last Saturday between President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam broached the issue of forming a government made up of independents and technocrats in a manner that does not provoke the March 8 factions or Hezbollah.

Sleiman is expected to issue statements on government formation and other issues in a speech Wednesday at a conference on human sciences in Jbeil.

The issue of the Cabinet and the presidential elections was of major prominence in a meeting between Berri and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora Sunday. Berri discussed with Siniora his visit to Tehran and reaffirmed the importance of a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, in addition to stressing his readiness for any meetings that could help counter the spreading of strife.

Siniora, meanwhile, stressed the importance of returning to national dialogue to discuss all issues including the Cabinet and the presidential elections, amid indications that the Future Movement wants to hold them on time. That position is reflected in visits by Future to prominent religious and political figures, including an expected visit by Siniora to Bkirki that follows similar visits last week by MPs Ahmed Fatfat and Hadi Hobeich.

However, Hezbollah’s position is different from Future’s, as the party considers it too early to discuss the presidential elections. Instead, sources close to Hezbollah said that what was needed was an end to the vacuum and the creation of a government of national unity to defend the nation amid circumstances that pose a threat to Lebanon, which were outlined by Interior Minister Marwan Charbel after his recent visit to Bkirki.

The Hezbollah sources invited March 14 to accept a joint Cabinet and to avoid tying it to other preconditions in order to buy time.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 02, 2013, on page 3.
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