Lebanon – Suleiman to Postpone Dialogue after Centrist Meeting in Baabda

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President Michel Suleiman is expected to announce the postponement of a national dialogue session scheduled to be held on Monday following a meeting he held with Prime Minister Najib Miqati and Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat.

A terse Baabda palace statement said late Friday that Suleiman discussed with Miqati and Jumblat the latest developments including “the dialogue, the electoral law and the reconciliation in the Mountains, mainly in the town of Brih.”

The two centrist leaders later stayed for dinner at the presidential palace, the statement said.

As Safir daily quoted presidential sources as saying on Saturday that ongoing contacts held by Suleiman with the bickering March 8 and March 14 camps hadn’t led to any results by Friday night which meant that the dialogue would be postponed.

The sources and An Nahar daily expected Suleiman to announce the postponement on Saturday or Sunday and said he will most probably not set a date for a new round of all-party talks pending the decision of March 14 opposition officials to return to the dialogue table.

The opposition announced its boycott of the national dialogue and called for the resignation of Miqati’s government following the Oct. 19 assassination of Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau chief Wissam al-Hasan after it blamed the cabinet for the murder.

Last month, the leader of the opposition al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc, Fouad Saniora, set a new condition to attend the talks, saying Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah should declare that he is ready to discuss placing the party’s arsenal under the authority of the Lebanese state.

The new condition further exacerbated already slim chances to hold the dialogue and led to a verbal dispute with Suleiman who said he will not abandon his invitation until the meeting is convened or the March 14 alliance proposes an alternative.

But the opposition reiterated its call for the cabinet’s resignation and the formation of a new government that would oversee the parliamentary elections.

Media reports said the controversial electoral draft-law was discussed in length at the Friday night meeting in Baabda.

Sources said that Miqati proposed to combine the proportional and winner-takes-all systems in a way to appease both the March 14 and March 8 camps in addition to the centrists.

They told al-Akhbar that the premier believes an amended version of the Butros Committee proposal is the only way out of the electoral crisis.

This proposal guarantees the formation of a balancing centrist bloc, they added.

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