Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Le Sursis

Lebanon has achieved a reprieve. Agreement at Doha (Michel Sleiman as President, 16 + 11 +3, Beirut redistricting, etc.)  allowed them to dodge the latest bullet, thank goodness. However, the underlying issues/differences still remain and though it should remain quiet for a while they may erupt at any time. Additionally, the latest contretemps has a) caused many to doubt the army, the one institution in Lebanon that was considered unitary (at least in lip service), and, b) made some who were OK with Hezbollah's arms think twice (see mini-polls below, from NOW Lebanon)

Members of the various factions welcomed the agreement, but a few could not resist including a few barbs against their opponents. Some reactions:

Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader, said “… what happened is not what we aspire for, but it is a step that could lead us to achieve our goals…. Today, a new path for the country was set – that is the important thing, since in the past two weeks we were on a path to hell…. The issue of the arms was not given the priority it needed, even though it is the main problem…I cannot permit myself to question the intentions of anyone, but we need to wait for the implementation of the agreement,

Hadi Hobeich, Future bloc MP, said “… The biggest winner is the Lebanese people… I hope this agreement will be the way to restore Lebanese institutions and the trust of the people, which can only be done through practice, if intentions are true… All of us have witnessed the destruction of state institutions and the downtown area, and Beirut and the Mountain were invaded when a Lebanese faction implemented a foreign agenda…”

Elias Atallah, MP and Secretary General of the Democratic Left, said “… I hope this achievement will work well and will not be held back by Iran or another party. I hope the next achievement is in Palestine… the government will be able to reinforce its authority across Lebanese soil without the existence of any state-within-a-state weakening it…”

Nabil Nicolas, Free Patriotic Movement MP, said “… Lebanon is above all individuals… The country grows bigger with the unity of its people… To those who blame the opposition for the economic crisis, we say that it was caused by the people who were clinging to their positions in the Serail…”

Saad Hariri, MP, said “All members of the March 14 forces have made sacrifices. We want all Lebanese to live together in peace… The wounds are deep, especially mine, but we only have each other… What happened must not be repeated, and we have to work on solving it. I thank the opposition because it has also made compromises. I also thank the media for its coverage of the Doha Conference…”

Hussein al-Hajj Hassan, MP, said “… The Doha Agreement is a new phase in which to build the state of Lebanon… There is a written agreement with Arab sponsorship, and we insist on its fulfillment. The issue of the arms was not on the discussion table since the first day of the dialogue, and using arms to achieve political gains is not in Hezbollah’s agenda… We need to work on the relation between Lebanon and Syria, and we are willing to help in this issue because we are part of the Lebanese state…”

Michel Aoun, MP, said “… The solution we have reached is not seen as perfect by any of the parties. Every party has taken its minimum demands, which was the common point. I hope this agreement is a starting point for a genuine meeting between the opposition and the majority. Other pending problems will be solved in Beirut, and there is no need to worry about anything…”

Marwan Hamadeh, minister, said “… What matters is returning to institutions. This agreement is aimed at reaffirming the Taif Agreement. The downtown sit-in was a collective punishment to the Lebanese people. From now on, security will be the responsibility of the Lebanese army and security forces across all Lebanese soil…”

Amin Gemayel, former President, said “This is a new phase, and we hope it will be positive. This agreement is very important, especially regarding the arms and the authority of the state on the ground. The other important issue is the election of a new president, and what we did today is a truce that we hope will last for a long time, and will reinforce the democratic institutions…”

Some external parties appeared less than thrilled, not a good sign for the longevity of the agreement…

Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egyptian Foreign Minister "The agreement ends a complicated crisis which could have destroyed Lebanon's stability had it not been for the wisdom of certain Lebanese politicians and the rapid Arab intervention… Egypt is particularly relieved... about the agreement of all Lebanese groups to no longer resort to weapons to resolve conflicts or achieve political gains…”

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul Aziz Khoja said “We are very glad with this agreement. The government, people and leaders in the Saudi Kingdom support this agreement and wish for its success”

The U.S. administration was even less enthusiastic … Condoleezza Rice damned the agreement with faint praise, calling it a “positive step” while David Welch, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, welcomed the agreement as "a necessary and positive step", but said it “was not the end of the crisis.

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