03/15/2006, 00.00
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Inter-Lebanese talks wind up with four-point accord

by Youssef Hourany

All-round satisfaction has been expressed about the first phase of the "Assembly of the 14", about conclusions reached regarding an international court for Hariri's murder, diplomatic ties with Syria, Chebaa Farms, and disarmament of the Palestinians. Still on the table are replacing Lahoud and disarmament of Hezbollah.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The setting up of an international court to try the killers of Hariri, the establishment of normal diplomatic ties with Syria, Lebanon's ownership of the Chebaa Farms (which however must be proved), and the disarmament of Palestinians outside their camps. These were the four main points of "unanimous" agreement reached in inter-Lebanese talks, how know as the "Assembly of 14". The accord marks the first time in Lebanon's recent history that a political decision has been taken without Syrian "mediation". Two decisions – perhaps the most contentious ones – were put off until the next round on 22 March: the fate of the President of the Republic Emile Lahoud, and the disarmament of Hezbollah, the Party of God. The head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, has already threatened to take to the streets in protest if President Lahoud is not deposed; as for disarmament, General Michel Aoun has promised to continue to protect the Lebanese resistance, led by the Party of God, until the moment of total liberation of Lebanese territory.

The decisions were taken on a particularly significant day, 14 March, the first anniversary of huge manifestations marking the beginning of the country of the cedars' drive to regain its liberty. The Lebanese press views latest developments reached positively. Lebanonwire talked of "a clear indication that Lebanese are capable of reaching agreement, even without impositions". L'Orient Le Jour wrote about a "small step for the 14, a great leap ahead for Lebanon." Meanwhile, An-Nahar reported the opinion held of "one of the participants in the dialogue", who said the 14 had several messages to give: "the first for Lebanese, to say that we are no longer any form of stewardship; the second for Arabs to ask them to adopt and to assist initiatives of dialogue; the third for Israel, to say that Lebanon has not abandoned its resistance; the fourth for Syria to offer an olive branch; the fifth for Lahoud to let him know that the next target, and the last for the United Nations to indicate that Lebanon seriously intends to apply Resolution 1559.

Satisfaction was expressed above all by the chairman of the House of Representatives, Nabih Berri, who promoted and chaired the meetings. Speaking to the press yesterday, Berri summed up, in four key points, the outcome of the first phase of dialogue, stressing that all decisions were taken unanimously.

a) Unanimous recognition of Lebanon's ownership of Chebaa and Kafarchouba Farms and the need to proceed with negotiations to free this Lebanese territory from Israeli presence.

b) The establishment of diplomatic ties with Syria at ambassadorial level, in view of setting up full diplomatic relations, as befits two neighbouring countries, a task entrusted to the head of the government, Fouad Siniora.

c) Palestinian disarmament, outside their camps, and the need to attain the total disarmament of Palestinians within six months.

d) Discovering the truth about the murder of the ex premier, Rafic Hariri, with the full collaboration of all parties and the request for the formation of an international court.

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