Lebanon News

Sleiman urges stronger commitment to Doha, Taif accords

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Tuesday following talks with Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani it was imperative that the Lebanese strengthen their commitment to the Doha and Taif Accords as Lebanon’s national unity and civil peace face dangers.

Sleiman made his remarks at the opening of the Lebanese Embassy in Doha as Syrian-Saudi contacts aimed at easing mounting tensions in Beirut over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) seemed stalled in the wake of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz’s trip to the United States for medical care.

Doubts were further emphasized after officials denied that the Saudi monarch’s son, Prince Abdel-Aziz bin Abdallah, would visit Syria Sunday, while confirming his departure Monday for the US.

The apparent slowdown on the Syrian-Saudi front was met by racing contacts on the Qatari track as Syrian President Bashar Assad is expected to visit Doha Sunday in the wake of Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani’s visit to Beirut Monday, a political source told The Daily Star.

The Qatari premier is expected to return to Doha prior to Assad’s arrival Sunday after concluding his European tour that kicked off with a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday, the source added.

The source described the Qatari premier’s visit to Beirut as a “reconnaissance one” to inspect the progress made on the Saudi-Syrian front rather than interfere with the initiative.

The source said the visit aimed to pave the way for an alternative solution, if Syrian-Saudi efforts fail to break the deadlock but added that the priority remained under the current circumstances for the initiative carried out by Damascus and Riyadh.

However, earlier Tuesday, Future Movement MP Ammar Houri said the visit was aimed at complementing the Syrian-Saudi efforts.

Houri added that the efforts were based on solid foundations but added that the contacts needed to be followed up.

Future Movement MP Oqab Saqr told The Daily Star that a framework of a suggested Lebanese-proposed solution was the focus of Syrian-Saudi contacts.

“There is a road map that is being discussed which we hope will lead to a solution but the issue is still being mapped out,” Saqr said, denying reports about reaching draft proposals awaiting approval to end the crisis.

Asked whether the Saudi King’s visit to the US to receive medical care froze contacts for the moment, Saqr said the exchange of ideas among parties was ongoing during King Abdullah’s absence. Saqr added that a resumption of ministerial sessions would be an indication of the success of the Saudi-Syrian initiative.

Another political source told The Daily Star that regional contacts were focused on sealing a deal granting rival parties reciprocal guarantees, closely mirroring those endorsed in the 2008 Doha Accord.

The source said the guidelines of such a solution involved Hizbullah’s commitment to refrain from resorting to force under any circumstances while the March 14 coalition pledges unconditional support to the resistance.

The Doha Accord ended in 2008 bloody clashes between Hizbullah and pro-government gunmen following the Cabinet’s decision to dismantle Hizbullah’s telecommunication network.

The political crisis that turned violent goes back to 2006 when Shiite ministers loyal to Hizbullah and Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement withdrew from the government following differences over the establishment of the STL. When Hizbullah and its allies stressed their commitment at the time to refrain from resorting to force to resolve political disputes, the March 14 parliamentary majority consequently agreed to grant opposition parties veto power in the government.

With regional contacts ongoing to buy time in a bid to avoid threatening the country and government’s stability, Hizbullah kept up its efforts to discredit the UN-backed tribunal.

MP Hassan Fadlallah, a member of Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc and head of the parliamentary telecommunication committee said investigations proved that Israel was able to hack into the mobile phones of three of its fighters and simulate calls from a secondary number.

The reported indictment is rumored to be based on circumstantial evidence founded on phone call patterns near the timing of the assassination of statesman Rafik Hariri’s linking Hizbullah members to a cell that monitored his convoy.

Hizbullah’s ally, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said Israel’s ability to hack into Lebanon’s telecommunication network shuffled many cards in the Hariri assassination case.

Aoun warned that the March 8 coalition was attempting to contain the situation to prevent an “explosion.”

“A strong and innocent [party] in my opinion if accused will not stand still,” Aoun said in reference to steps Hizbullah might undertake if any of its members were indicted.

Aoun’s statement among others by March 8 figures, drew criticism by the Future Movement bloc, which condemned “the escalatory rhetoric and intimidation attempts by some groups and politicians to resort to weapons and violence to reverse the situation.”

 

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