Hezbollah and Future Movement may end stalemate: sources

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Future Movement leader Saad Hariri and Hezbollah chief Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah stand shoulder to shoulder despite years of animosity (archives).

By: Maysam Rizk

Published Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Major Lebanese parties Hezbollah and the Future Movement may break a years-long stalemate by holding conciliatory talks, high-ranking sources from both groups told Al-Akhbar Tuesday.

The push for dialogue comes in the wake of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati's resignation which raised the specter of sectarian violence in the country. Lebanon is believed to have been on the brink of civil war since an uprising-turned-civil war erupted in neighboring Syria two years ago, further polarizing political camps.

Certain executive members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah are urging "direct" talks with the Saudi-backed Future Movement without preconditions, according to a source inside the party.

Those party members are espousing the argument that: "no single party can rule Lebanon, not us, nor the Future Movement, who remain the foremost representatives of the Sunnis in Lebanon. Dialogue with them becomes urgent, now or later."

Lebanon's fate has long been viewed as hinged to the outcome of Syria's war between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad, with the Future Movement backing the former and Hezbollah the latter. But pro-dialogue Hezbollah members are arguing that Lebanon ought to disentangle itself from their neighbor's crisis by resolving issues among themselves.

"Facts on the ground in Syria prove that no solution to the crisis will arrive soon, and we should no longer wait for results there," said a Hezbollah source.

Both Hezbollah and Future Movement sources say the power vacuum brought on by Mikati's resignation two weeks ago, made moves for dialogue expedient.

The Hezbollah-led March 8 and Future Movement-led March 14 coalition have been embroiled in a crippling stalemate since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The deadlock has toppled three governments and occasionally devolved into nation-wide violence.

"The time still isn't ripe [for dialogue]," said a Future Movement source, cautioning that elements pushing for dialogue have not succeeded in making the move a formal stance. "But Mikati's resignation may have helped ease tensions between us."

Talks would have to mediated by Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally viewed as friendly to both camps, the Future Movement source said. Berri has already said he would accept such a role.

Lebanese leaders are currently in heated negotiations over naming Lebanon's next prime minister. Prolonged negotiations would delay parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in June, pushing the country into deeper crisis.

Lebanon has not had elections postponed since the end of its bloody civil war (1975 - 1990).

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