Qatari deal defuses Lebanese crisis
The agreement gives Hezbollah and the opposition allies of the Shiite militants enough control in the government to have veto power over legislation.
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"The issue of Hezbollah's arms will remain a sticking point and a major concern for the Bush administration and hence for March 14," Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, an expert on Hezbollah, told Reuters.Skip to next paragraph
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"Secondly for Hezbollah, there will continue to be the main problem of foreign allegiances, so Lebanon will remain in this tug of war between the United States and Saudi Arabia on one hand and Iran and Syria on the other," she added.
Jamil Mroue, editor of the English-language Daily Star, hailed Qatar's role in helping Lebanon step back from the violence that had revived memories of its 1975-90 civil war.
"All credit to the Qataris, who found the needle in the haystack," he told Reuters in Doha. "The onus now is on the Lebanese and their leaders to let the Lebanese state emerge as a healthy arena for political differences."
The biggest concession in Qatar is indeed the veto-wielding share of the next government for Hezbollah and its allies.
"We were always ready to give concessions for the sake of coexistence, and open a new page for reconciliation," says Saad Hariri, the leader of the Future Movement, the largest Sunni political party and part of the March 14 bloc.
For now, Lebanon can breathe a huge sigh of relief, because the agreement unblocks an impasse that had left it without a president since November, without a functioning parliament, and without a government recognized by all sides as legitimate.
The moment the news of the deal broke, the tents started coming down in central Beirut, where opposition supporters have been encamped since December 2006 in an open-ended sit-in to force the collapse of the government.
The sit-in, however, had become as much an embarrassment to the opposition as it was an irritation to the government and a source of resentment to local businessmen.
"Today is Lebanon's wedding day," says Tanios Harfoush, the owner of a shoe shop. "Lebanon sometimes falls down, but it always gets back up again."
The Doha agreement also allows the opposition a face-saving way to disband the sit-in and allow the commercial hub of the city to return to normality.
"It's a historic day for Lebanon, not only for the opposition but also for the majority," says Simon Abi Ramia, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement, a mainly Christian opposition party.
• Material from Reuters was used in this report.