Father of peace deal that ended Lebanon’s civil war dies

BEIRUT (AP) — Hussein Husseini, Lebanon’s former parliament speaker and the father of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the country’s 15-year civil war, died Wednesday after days of illness. He was 85.

Husseini was admitted to Beirut’s American University Medical Center on Jan. 3, after suffering from a strong flu, the state-run National News Agency said. NNA added that Husseini remained in the intensive care unit until his death on Wednesday morning.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati declared a three-day mourning period in the crisis-hit Lebanon while Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri postponed a session that was scheduled to take place on Thursday to elect a new president.

Husseini was elected to parliament representing the northeastern Baalbek-Hermel region in 1972 and remained a legislator until 2008. He was elected as parliament speaker in 1984, a job that he kept until 1992.

The politician was a harsh critic of Lebanon’s sectarian-based political system that divided top posts in the country of 5 million between Christian and Muslim communities. Husseini was also a strong vocal opponent of the country’s financial policies, including heavy borrowing, that started in the 1990s and eventually led to Lebanon’s ongoing three-year economic meltdown.

Born to a prominent Shiite family in the town of Shmistar in the eastern Bekaa Valley in April 1937, Husseini enjoyed wide respect among many Lebanese — especially for his defense of civil rights and for not being involved in widespread corruption among the country’s political class.

In 1973, he helped found the Amal Movement that morphed to become one of the most powerful militias during the country’s civil war and helped lift Lebanon’s Shiite community from decades of marginalization to a main power-broker in the small nation.

In 1978, he became the head of the Amal Movement but stepped down two years later after he refused to have the group take part in the country’s civil war. He was replaced by Berri who still heads Amal.

As parliament speaker, Husseini was a key power behind the 1989 peace agreement reached between rival Lebanese groups in the Saudi city of Taif that ended the 15-year civil war in 1990.

In 2008, Husseini resigned from parliament in protest of the Doha Agreement which ended weeks-long clashes between the country’s political groups and formed a government that gave the militant Hezbollah group and its allies veto powers in the Cabinet. He claimed the deal was unconstitutional.

Husseini, who held a degree in business administration from Cairo University, is survived by several sons, daughters and grandchildren.

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