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Why Qatar is emerging as Middle East peacemaker

It was uniquely positioned to broker a deal this week between warring factions in Lebanon.

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GATHER AROUND: The emire of Qatar presided over the May 21 meeting that resolved an 18-month political crisis between rival Lebanese groups.

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This tiny Gulf state emerged this week at the forefront of regional diplomacy, successfully shepherding the negotiations between feuding Lebanese factions to end months of political turmoil and violence.

With regional powers, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, aligned behind rival players in Lebanon, Qatar is uniquely suited to help mediate Lebanon's crisis. It's seen as charting an unashamedly independent path in the maze of Arab politics,

"Just a year ago, Saudi Arabia was trying to do this [mediation], but Saudi Arabia is considered an interested party. But Qatar is somewhat in between," says Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center in Beirut. "Qatar, on the Lebanon issue, is the only country with good relations on both sides and has the money to back it up."

Qatar's intense mediation bore fruit Wednesday in a last-minute deal on the composition of the next Lebanese government, an electoral law, the election of a new president, and a future dialogue on the fate of the militant Shiite Hezbollah's weapons.

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