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Hezbollah lifts Beirut street blockades

  • Story Highlights
  • Hezbollah roadblocks being cleared in Beirut
  • Lebanese factions meeting Friday in Qatar
  • Power struggle has kept Lebanon without a president since November
  • Latest violence began May 2 as labor dispute but escalated; 62 killed
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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Hezbollah militants Thursday began removing street blockades -- one day after the reversal of two Lebanese Cabinet decisions made during the recent factional violence.

The Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia had promised to end its civil disobedience campaign and move toward political solidarity after the Cabinet's announcement.

"Beirut is for all. It is not for a party over another and it is not for one group over another," Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general, Sheik Naim Qassem, said on Lebanese television Thursday.

"We call everyone to move away from the language of turmoil and apprehension because at this stage, we need to be together."

A special meeting between Lebanon's political factions -- organized by the Arab League -- is scheduled for Friday to discuss political issues that have kept Lebanon without a president since November.

If the outcome of the meeting is positive, Hezbollah said, it would end its sit-in around government buildings, its last remaining display of civil disobedience.

The Cabinet on Wednesday reversed an order that Hezbollah's telecommunications system should come under state control.

A similar U-turn was made with a decision to fire the chief of security at Beirut's airport. He was at the center of a probe into allegations Hezbollah had installed its own cameras and equipment at the airport to monitor the movement of government figures.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defended his group's use of the monitoring equipment, saying it is the right of "any militia during war."

This month's clashes between Hezbollah and the Sunni-led government happened when a labor protest May 2 escalated into a flashpoint over Lebanon's political crisis.

Three days later, the cabinet made the two disputed orders.

During the violence, anti-government protesters burned tires, blocked roads and began the sit-in. At one point, Hezbollah took control of western Beirut.

It began in Beirut, but quickly spread to nearby mountain villages in the Mount Lebanon area and to Tripoli. Sixty-two people were killed as anti-government Hezbollah militants battled supporters of Lebanon's pro-Western government.

Officials said those attending Friday's meeting hope to reach an agreement on the formation of a new national unity government and electoral law, which should lead to parliament's election of a president.

Lebanon's presidency has been vacant since pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term ended late last year.

Despite general agreement on army chief Gen. Michel Suleiman to fill the post, political wrangling among Lebanon's political factions -- including disagreements on how to share power in a future Cabinet -- has kept the issue from coming up for a vote.

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