Feuding Lebanese factions to hold talks

Hizbullah, Lebanese gov't agree to hold political talks to elect compromise presidential candidate.

Nasrallah beirut 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Nasrallah beirut 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Hizbullah-led opposition and US-backed Lebanese government agreed Thursday to hold political talks that will lead to the election of Lebanon's army chief as the compromise presidential candidate, an Arab mediator said. The feuding factions reached the deal one day after the Cabinet reversed measures aimed at reining in Iranian-backed Hizbullah. In return, the opposition removed a roadblock that had shut down the country's international airport for a week. Immediately after the deal was announced, bulldozers and opposition supporters began clearing a series of airport roadblocks along the highway. The two camps agreed to hold a dialogue in Qatar on Friday, said Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani who is heading an Arab League team in Lebanon to mediate in the crisis. He said that dialogue will result in the election of compromise candidate Gen. Michel Suleiman, the army chief, as president. A political standoff between the opposition and the government has prevented parliament from electing a president since November, leaving the country without a head of state for six months. Late Wednesday night, the Cabinet rescinded two measures against Hizbullah that sparked the worst violence since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. The government backed down from its decisions to remove the airport security chief for alleged ties to the militant group and to declare Hizbullah's private telephone network illegal. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah had said the decisions amounted to a declaration of war against his group and his armed fighters took to the streets, demanding the government rescind its orders. They seized control of large parts of Muslim west Beirut last week. Clashes spread across the country, many of them along sectarian lines, leaving 65 people dead.