Tue, Oct 23, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Lebanese parliament chief delays presidential ballot

SPECIAL SESSION Nabih Berri rescheduled the vote from today to Nov. 12 to give political parties more time to reach agreement on a successor to Emile Lahoud


Lebanon's parliament speaker yesterday postponed a special session to choose a president once again to allow the country's feuding political factions time to agree on a consensus candidate.

"The parliament speaker [Nabih Berri] has decided to postpone the session to Monday November 12 for more consultation and agreement over the president, who symbolizes the country's unity," a parliament statement said.

Members of parliament (MPs) from the ruling anti-Syrian coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition were due to meet today to pick a successor to the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires on Nov. 24.

The fresh delay was widely expected as rival factions have so far been unable to agree on a consensus candidate, raising fears the country could plunge into its most serious political crisis since the 1975 to 1990 civil war.

"Nothing will take place on Tuesday simply because we want to give negotiations a chance," Henri Helou, a deputy from the pro-Western ruling coalition, had said.

It is the second time that parliament has put off the vote.

A first session on Sept. 25 was postponed as a boycott by pro-Syrian opposition MPS meant the assembly did not have the required two-thirds quorum.

Lebanon's president, a Maronite Christian by convention in the multi-confessional country, is elected by MPs rather than by popular suffrage.

The ruling coalition has put forward two names for the presidency but the opposition is insisting on a candidate from outside that camp.

In other developments, Hezbollah's deputy leader warned the US on Sunday against setting up a military base in Lebanon.

Sheik Naim Kassem said the guerrilla group would consider such a move "a hostile act."

Kassem's warning came just days after a senior Pentagon official said the US military would like to see a "strategic partnership" with Lebanon's army to strengthen the country's forces so that Hezbollah would have no excuse to bear arms.

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