Arab League ministers to meet on Lebanese crisis

CAIRO (Reuters) – Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the political crisis in Lebanon, the Cairo-based Arab League said on Saturday.

“The Arab League council at the ministerial level will hold an emergency session on Sunday to discuss the Lebanese crisis and how to deal with it,” the League said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both of which back Lebanon’s government, had called for an Arab foreign ministers meeting.

The statement came a day after the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shi’ite movement Hezbollah seized control of the Muslim half of the Lebanese capital in what the Western-backed government and its allies described as a coup.

At least 24 people have been killed since the violence began on Wednesday.

The fighting erupted after the government said it was taking legal action against Hezbollah’s military communications network on the grounds that it was illegal. Hezbollah, its prestige enhanced in the region after it stood its ground against Israel’s 2006 onslaught, said the government had declared war.

Separately on Saturday, an Arab League official in Cairo said the ministers would discuss ways of ending the violence.

The official, who declined to be named, said the ministers would also call for an immediate agreement on the forming of a Lebanese national unity government and the election of army chief General Michel Suleiman as president.

They would also call for a team of “politicians, intellectuals and neutral parties” to work on drafting a new electoral law after the election of Suleiman, he added.

Hezbollah is the largest group in the Lebanese opposition, which is demanding veto power in any new government and a new electoral law before allowing the election to the presidency of Suleiman, who both sides have agreed should fill the post.

The presidency has been empty since November in the absence of a resolution to the political deadlock.

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