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Presidential vote delayed in Lebanon

Latest update : 2008-02-14

Lawmakers from the ruling coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition have until November 24 to pick a candidate to succeed the current pro-Syrian head of state Emile Lahoud.

BEIRUT, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Lebanon delayed its presidential
election by nearly three weeks to Nov. 12 on Monday to allow
more time for rival pro- and anti-Syrian groups to agree on a
compromise candidate.

The Lebanese parliament had been scheduled to meet on
Tuesday to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile
Lahoud, whose term expires on Nov. 23.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said in a statement he was
postponing the vote "to allow for more consultations that would
lead to consensus on electing a president who would symbolise
the unity and resilience of the country".

It is the second postponement in electing a president, a
step seen as vital to resolving a one-year-old crisis pitting
the anti-Syrian ruling majority against the opposition, led by
pro-Syrian Hezbollah.

Political sources said the delay was a positive signal that
the two sides were still hopeful of reaching a compromise to
ensure a smooth transition.

"We wish that by that time (Nov. 12), we are able to
progress towards holding this constitutional election," Prime
Minister Fouad Siniora said.

There are fears that if no president is elected before
Lahoud's term expires, Lebanon would end up with two rival
governments and bloodshed. The political crisis is the worst
since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Opposition MPs boycotted parliament on Sept. 25 to prevent a
two-thirds quorum and thwart anti-Syrian factions, which have a
slim majority, from electing a new head of state.

Siniora's backers, including the United States and Saudi
Arabia, want to replace Lahoud with one of their own.

Hezbollah and its allies in the opposition want to deny the
presidency to their rivals, whom they regard as puppets of the
United States.

Date created : 2007-10-22