Fresh French bid to end Lebanon political deadlock | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 23, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 23, 2007

Fresh French bid to end Lebanon political deadlock

Top French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran returns to Lebanon today on a new mission to try to break a nine-month deadlock among Lebanon's feuding political parties, a diplomatic source told AFP.
Cousseran's visit comes as the country prepares for a presidential election due to be held between September 25 and November 24, when the mandate of current pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud ends.
During his three-day mission that ends on Saturday Cousseran is due to meet Western-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with the Hezbollah-led opposition backed by Syria and Iran.
France's envoy is also due to hold talks with other Lebanese leaders.
His visit comes amid efforts by Paris to broker an end to the political standoff in Lebanon that threatens to scuttle the upcoming presidential ballot and plunge the divided country further into disarray.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met Lebanese leaders in Beirut at the end of July but failed to make significant headway.
The resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shiite, sparked the current political standoff, the country's worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
The Shiite militant group Hezbollah, bolstered by what it called its victory during last year's 34-day war with Israel, is pushing for the opposition to be better represented in government in order to give it veto power.
But the majority insists that this can only happen if Hezbollah agrees to stop blocking parliamentary sessions in order to ensure the quorum needed for the presidential election.
Failure by the parties to resolve their differences in the coming weeks could spark a dangerous power vacuum or even the creation of two rival governments.
France has taken the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, gathering all the parties for a conference near Paris in July and sending Cousseran to the region for consultations with the key players.

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