Lebanese leaders meet for talks to defuse tension

Political leaders met for the first time in nearly five months Monday for talks designed to bring calm to Lebanon, which has seen bombings and threats to bring down the government by mass demonstrations. The leaders met in the parliament building in downtown Beirut at the invitation of speaker Nabih Berri, who has warned that unless they settled their disputes, the country would face "dangerous" destabilization. Hundreds of police officers and soldiers cordoned off parliament in a major security operation that caused huge traffic jams in the city center. The main items on the agenda are the demand by Hizbullah and the mainly Christian faction of Michel Aoun for the formation of a new coalition government and a new electoral law. All the participants of the previous "national dialogues" attended Monday's meeting, except the leader of Hizbullah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who sent his party's chief legislator, Mohammed Raad, because of Israeli threats to assassinate him.