Can the Arab League solve Lebanon's political crisis?
The Arab League's secretary-general flies into Beirut this week in an effort to end the country's presidential stalemate.
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Mohammed Raad, who heads Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, says a final decision on the Arab League proposal would depend on subsequent developments. "We don't want to be pessimistic or block the route to any productive decision, especially in a complicated matter like the Lebanese issue."Skip to next paragraph
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Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Hizbullah expert at the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center in Beirut, says the Arab League proposal appeared to be an attempt to "weaken the opposition and corner it. It seems that Hezbollah is not too thrilled about it and I think that the end result will be that the opposition will not agree."
Michel Aoun, Hezbollah's main Christian ally in the opposition who harbors presidential ambitions himself, is also likely to object to the proposal, analysts say. Granting the balance of power in the next cabinet to Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, as all Lebanese heads of state traditionally must be, will significantly weaken Mr. Aoun's political influence.
So why would Syria sign onto a plan that might weaken its Lebanese allies? One reason, analysts say, is the threat of a boycott of the Arab League summit scheduled to be hosted by Damascus in March. The summit is a prestigious annual event attended by Arab heads of state and will boost Syria's credentials in the region.
According to Lebanon's An Nahar newspaper, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was warned on the sidelines of Sunday's Arab League meeting that Saudi King Abdullah would refuse to attend the March summit if Damascus failed to endorse the Arab League proposal.
"The Syrians want the summit to be a success," says Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst, adding that although the Arab League proposal is "not perfect [for Syria] … it's the closest thing to perfect at this stage."
Still, Mr. Muallem, in Cairo, said that while Syria and Saudi Arabia have agreed to cooperate on Lebanon, Damascus "cannot put pressure on anyone in Lebanon because the solution [to the presidential crisis] should be Lebanese."
Some Lebanese analysts interpret Muallem's comment as an attempt to absolve Damascus of blame should the Lebanese opposition eventually reject the Arab League proposal and continue holding out for a better deal.