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Two candidates emerge from Lebanon deadlock

Latest update : 2008-02-14

Lebanon's presidential election was delayed again as rival political factions failed to agree on a new president. Leading candidates today are Michel Edde and Robert Ghanem.

BEIRUT, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Lebanon marked its independence
day on Thursday gripped by anxiety about the failure so far of
rival political camps and a slew of foreign mediators to clinch
agreement on a new president and avert possible violence.
 
"Last day before zero hour: either a miracle or vacuum,"
headlined the An-Nahar daily, which backs the anti-Syrian ruling
coalition headed by Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri.
Other newspapers were just as bleak about the prospects of
finding a solution ahead of a parliamentary vote on Friday, the
last day of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term.
 
The election, first slated for Sept. 25, has already been
put off four times. If the assembly again fails to meet, a
constitutional abyss would yawn before Lebanon, already mired in
its worst political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
 
"There are early indications that the session will not be
held tomorrow," said opposition politician Michel al-Murr,
describing the situation as very complex.
 
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has shuttled
between fractious Lebanese politicians since Sunday, and his
Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos visited Christian
opposition leader and presidential candidate Michel Aoun.
 
They were due to see other politicians from the pro-Syrian
opposition and the Western-backed majority later in the day.
 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned Aoun and Hariri
on Wednesday night in another sign of international concern
about a deadlock that could further destabilise Lebanon.
 
Troops and police tightened security in Beirut ahead of the
parliamentary session. There was no military parade or other
events to mark the 64th anniversary of Lebanon's independence.
 
"We will still wait for a president ... because we don't
want to despair of the nation and the state that is about to
become a memory," said an editorial in the pro-opposition
As-safir daily.
 
The Hezbollah-led opposition says it won't go to parliament
without prior agreement on a candidate, who must be a Maronite
Christian under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system.
 
The ruling coalition holds only a slim majority and the
opposition says the vote requires two thirds of the MPs.
 
If no president is elected, the outgoing Lahoud has vowed to
take unspecified measures to guarantee Lebanon's unity. These
could include handing power to the army, rather than to the
existing government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
 
Lahoud and the opposition say Siniora's government lost its
legitimacy when all its Shi'ite ministers resigned last year.
 
The majority bloc argues that Siniora's government would
automatically take over presidential powers until a new head of
state can be elected. Some of its members favour using their
majority to pick a president in the absence of a deal.
 
"We are still hopeful of reaching a consensus," said
Mohammad Raad, head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc.
 
"If (Lahoud's) term ends without consensus, the opposition
will take its rolling measures in response to those of the other
side," he told reporters after meeting the president, without
revealing the well-armed Shi'ite group's plans.

Date created : 2007-11-27

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