Rival Lebanese leaders signed a deal yesterday to end 18 months of political conflict that had threatened to push the country to a new civil war. The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said yesterday that the peace deal was made possible because all the parties involved “rose above their sentiments” and proved their commitment to the Lebanese people.
The agreement, reached after six days of Arab-mediated talks, also paved the way for the election of a new president.
Parliament will convene on Sunday to elect army chief General Michel Suleiman as head of state, aides to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said.
The agreement between the US-backed ruling coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition resolved a dispute over a law for holding 2009 parliamentary elections and met the opposition's long-standing demand for veto power in cabinet.
It followed a Hezbollah military campaign this month against the ruling coalition which bolstered the opposition's political strength. Hezbollah routed its rivals in six days of conflict that killed 81 and prompted the Qatari-led mediation.
The fighting was Lebanon's worst civil conflict since the 1975-1990 war and exacerbated tensions between Shias loyal to Hezbollah and Druze and Sunni supporters of the government. “Today, we are opening a new page in Lebanon's history,” said Saad Al Hariri, a Sunni politician who leads the governing coalition. His supporters were among those defeated by Hezbollah.
"I know the wounds are deep, but we have no one except each other," said Hariri, who is regarded as a strong contender for prime minister in the new cabinet.
Hezbollah delegation leader Mohammed Raad said the deal would help "towards strengthening coexistence and building the state".
Foreign backers of both sides, including the US, France, Iran and Syria, welcomed the deal. Saudi Arabia was "happy" about the agreement, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon was quoted as saying by the National News Agency.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was a "positive step" towards resolving the crisis.
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