Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hizbu'llah Stages Second Massive Beirut Rally; Arab League Chief Mousa Attempts to Negotiate a Deal

After holding a massive rally in central Beirut on December 1, which drew an estimated 800,000+ people, Hizbu'llah, AMAL, and the Maronite Christian supporters of Michel Aoun (collectively the National Opposition) held another rally [BELOW] of equal size on December 11. Promising to continue protests and sit-ins until the government of Sunni Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his Druze, Sunni, and Christian allies resigns, the National Opposition has resisted calls for it to give up its protests and return to the negotiating table. Protestors say that without significant concessions on the part of Siniora and his chief allies, the socialist Druze "hobbit" Walid Jumblatt and Sunni Saad al-Hariri, son of assassinated former prime minister and architect of Lebanon's sectarianism Rafiq al-Hariri. To date, the pro-government camp, which claims to represent the "majority" of Lebanese, has only been able to hold a few rallies in the predominantly Christian and Sunni north and on a far smaller scale than those of the National Opposition [RIGHT].

For more information on the second National Opposition rally, see:
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa has shuttling back and forth to Beirut for over a week as he attempts to negotiate an agreement between the National Opposition and Siniora's [LEFT] pro-government camp. So far, a deal has remained elusive and has begun to bog down over several of the most significant issues at question, such as the composition of a new unity government. The Arab League chief remains optimistic about his chances for success.

"I have come back to resume contacts with all the parties and to make progress in my mission," said Mousa. "There are some areas in which we can make progress right away... All Arab countries are worried about the dangerous situation prevailing in Lebanon and are working to save this country."

Many secular and Sunni Arab leaders, including King 'Abdullah I, ruler of the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak, have expressed alarm over Hizbu'llah's growing political power in Lebanon. These leaders fear rising Shi'i political power in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf states (many of which have either Shi'i majorities such as Bahrayn or significant minorities such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) and what the perceive is growing Iranian influence in the region. There is growing evidence that Saad al-Hariri's [RIGHT] Future Movement is tapping into Sunni sectarianism to counter Hizbu'llah and its more secular-minded counterpart AMAL. For my comments on this, see the closing 2 paragraphs in my previous post.

For more information on Amr Mousa's negotiations, see: http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/06/12/14/10089327.html

Mousa [LEFT] has arrived back in Beirut to continue talks despite calls by the National Opposition yesterday to hold new parliamentary elections under a new Lebanese electoral law. Under Lebanon's current constitution, parliamentary seats are divided evenly between Christians and Muslims (Druze, althoughout not Muslim anymore, are considered Muslim for this purpose) and there are strict rules governing who can be president (Christian), prime minister (Sunni), and speaker of parliament (Shi'i).

For more on the National Opposition's call for new elections, see:

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