French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrives in Lebanon late on Friday on a delicate mission that observers say has little chance of ending a standoff between the country's political parties.
Kouchner is set to meet Lebanese leaders on Saturday and Sunday to encourage them to end an eight-month power struggle between the Western-backed prime minister and the Hezbollah-led opposition.
He will be picking up where he left off during talks in France earlier this month between the two sides — and trying to get them to follow through.
But experts and political observers said there was little likelihood of a breakthrough during Kouchner's two-day trip, given that each side is refusing to budge.
"I think he might be able to get them to sit down and talk to each other, but I don't see them agreeing on a national unity government before the presidential elections and I don't see them agreeing on a president," said Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre, a think tank.
"So I don't think his mission at this time will succeed," he told AFP.
Hezbollah is pushing for the opposition to be better represented in government in order to give it veto power.
The majority, however, insists that this can only happen if Hezbollah agrees to stop blocking parliamentary sessions in order to ensure the quorum needed for the presidential elections to replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud by a November 25 deadline.
Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, said this week's unsuccessful visit to Beirut by French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran to pave the way for Kouchner had tempered Paris' expectations.
"I think France has reduced its ambition as far as resolving the crisis and Kouchner's visit marks but a step in the negotiations rather than a final one," Hamadeh, a prominent member of the ruling majority, told AFP.
Nawaf Musawi, in charge of international relations for Hezbollah, said earlier this week that his party was keen on the French initiative succeeding, But he insisted that this could only take place once a government of national unity had been formed.
"We must not waste time in discussions," Musawi said. "A national unity government must be put in place and it would be up to that government to discuss lingering problems."
At the Carnegie centre, Salem said he believed the major stumbling block to France's diplomatic efforts was the United States on the one hand and Syria on the other.
"The US does not want to accommodate Hezbollah, Syria or Iran in Lebanon," he said. "And Syria does not want to accommodate the ruling majority or the United States in Lebanon."
Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Temmuz 2007, 16:27