Lebanon's bickering politicians asked Qatar on Saturday to come up with a proposal on the thorny issue of Hezbollah's weapons during Arab-brokered talks aimed at ending a feud that drove their country to the brink of a new civil war.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani "offered to come up with a proposal on the Hezbollah weaponry issue and present it to the two parties," a pro-government delegate told AFP.
"The two sides have agreed to that," he added following the first session of Arab-mediated talks by 14 leaders or representatives of the pro-Western government and the Hezbollah-led opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.
Host Qatar made the offer after leaders of the ruling parliamentary majority initially insisted without success on including the arms question on the agenda, said the delegate, requesting anonymity.
Another delegate from the group later said it has succeeded in including on the agenda a "demand for guarantees against resorting again to arms."
He told AFP the bloc "insists on debating the issue of arms in two stages."
The first stage should include "guarantees not to use arms (against other Lebanese parties) for whatever reason," while the "future of Hezbollah arms to be dealt with in the second stage, after electing a president."
After 65 people were killed in nearly a week of fighting and Hezbollah and its allies temporarily took control of a large part of west Beirut, the two sides agreed on Thursday to a national dialogue aimed at breaking an impasse over electing a new president and forming a unity government.
The Qatari hosts will be working against the backdrop of two United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon.
Hezbollah was the only group that did not have to hand over its guns to the government following the 1989 Saudi-brokered Taef agreement to end the 1975-1990 civil war, because it was fighting the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.
However, Israel pulled its troops out of Lebanon in 2000.
Resolution 1559, adopted in 2004 called, among other things, for the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."
Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, called for there to be "no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state."
Meanwhile, the delegates agreed to form a joint committee to address the issue of a new electoral law for parliamentary polls due next year, the first delegate said.
In addition to the electoral law, the leaders are expected to discuss a proposed unity government.
Both sides have already agreed on army chief Michel Sleiman to succeed Damascus protege Emile Lahoud, who stepped down as president in November at the end of his term.
Parliament has failed to convene to elect a successor, exacerbating a crisis that began in late 2006 when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
On June 10, it is due for the 20th time to meet to elect a president.
Among those attending the meeting are Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and a key government ally, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is not attending, reportedly because of security concerns, and is represented by Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad. Also attending on behalf of the opposition are parliament speaker Nabih Berri and Christian leader Michel Aoun.
Hopes of a Lebanon deal rose on Wednesday after Siniora's government cancelled measures against Hezbollah that had triggered the unrest.
It rescinded plans to probe a private Hezbollah telecommunications network and reassign the head of airport security over allegations he was close to the group.
Speaking in Egypt, where he is on the final leg of a Middle East tour, US President George W. Bush reiterated his support for Siniora
"We are concerned about radical elements undermining the democracy," he said.
"It is clear that Hezbollah, which has been funded by Iran, can no longer justify its position as a defender against Israel when it turns on its own people.
"This is a defining moment, it's a moment that requires us to stand strongly with the Siniora government and to support the Siniora government."
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