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SUNDAY, 20 APR 2014
01:53 PM Beirut time
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Imminent Berri visit to Saudi Arabia unlikely
File - Speaker Nabih Berri speaks during a news conference at his Ain Al-Tinneh residence in Beirut Saturday, June 29, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
File - Speaker Nabih Berri speaks during a news conference at his Ain Al-Tinneh residence in Beirut Saturday, June 29, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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Sources attending a meeting presided over by Speaker Nabih Berri ruled out a rumored visit by the speaker to Saudi Arabia in the next two weeks. They indicated that such a visit would be premature, although Berri was ready to exert any effort to bridge Tehran and Riyadh’s diverging points of view. The atmosphere in Saudi Arabia is not conducive to such a rapprochement just yet.

The sources said Berri was comfortable making such a trip, especially following the deal between Tehran and world powers over Iran’s nuclear program. They added that this step had opened the door to cooperation between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic in the region, something everyone should be happy about.

The sources said with this accord Iran had achieved what it was aiming for with its nuclear program, i.e. its right to enrichment for peaceful purposes and securing cheap nuclear energy, in addition to lifting Western sanctions and unfreezing $8 billion.

The same sources pointed out that these developments were bound to have a positive impact on Lebanon, if not immediately. However, it is unlikely they will provoke any political breach in Beirut before the Geneva II conference. If the conference yields a political solution to Syria then Lebanon will be the first country to reap the benefits of such a breakthrough.

The sources warned, however, that until then Lebanon’s security could continue to deteriorate. Any road map out of the current regional crisis resulting from the recent Iranian accord will have to include Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and such a plan will not succeed unless it aims to quell Sunni-Shiite tensions in the region. If it succeeds, it could even lead to a resolution between the Bahraini regime and the opposition in that country.

As for Lebanon, the sources said any solution would necessitate a radical shift in the existing political alliances, one that would mirror the impact of the Iranian nuclear deal on the rest of the world. This shift may even result in a Christian from the March 8 alliance being elected president of the republic and the return of Saad Hariri as prime minister, as well as the establishment of new alliances, ushering in a new age of stability and prosperity.

The sources pointed out that the current crisis in Lebanon cannot remain as it is, adding that none of the international players have an interest in the situation devolving into all-out war.

Moreover, most observers and decision-makers are waiting at least six months to see how the repercussions of the Iran deal will play out and whether it really is a precursor to Iranian-Western cooperation.

Although the sources expressed optimism regarding the direction of regional politics, they did not rule out the possibility that either Iran, the U.S. or some European countries may balk at controversial issues, especially in light of Israel’s efforts to undermine the deal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 3.
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