Lebanon tensions ease as Shi'ite officials visit Christian area

BEIRUT - Officials from Lebanon's Shi'ite parties Amal and Hezbollah visited a mainly Christian district of Beirut on Friday to help defuse tensions ignited this week by a row involving the country's president and the parliamentary speaker.
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun, enraged supporters of Shi'ite Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, when he was heard in a leaked video calling Berri "a thug." Bassil and Aoun are Maronite Christians.
Demanding an apology, supporters of Berri and his Amal movement staged protests in various parts of the country.
The standoff threatened to inflame sectarian violence and paralyze the government in the run-up to legislative elections in May, the first since 2009 after parliament extended its own term three times.
But Aoun spoke by telephone with Berri on Thursday , and the standoff eased further on Friday with a meeting between the Shi'ite officials and members of Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in the mainly Christian district of Hadat, on the southern outskirts of Beirut.
"Our meeting today is a message countering all that happened in recent days," said Alain Aoun, an FPM lawmaker. "It is also a message to (Speaker Berri) that his dignity and ours are one."