Fri, Oct 26, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Ban warns against void in Lebanon


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday he was worried that Lebanese militias were arming to prepare for a "constitutional void" if parliament cannot agree on a new president.

The presidential election was delayed for the second time until Nov. 12 to allow time to find a compromise candidate to succeed pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires on Nov. 23.

Agreement on a new president is seen as vital to resolving Lebanon's most serious political crisis since the 1975 to 1990 civil war. It pits the Western-backed, anti-Syrian government against the opposition, led by pro-Syrian Hezbollah. If no president is elected before Lahoud's term expires, there are fears that the country could end up with two rival governments and even slide back into armed conflict.

"There must not be a constitutional void at the level of the presidency, nor two rivaling governments," Ban said in a report for the UN Security Council distributed on Wednesday, urging Lebanese leaders to engage in dialogue on a president.

Many Lebanese lawmakers have been holed up in a Beirut hotel for weeks for fear of joining a growing list of anti-Syrian parliamentarians assassinated in the past two years.

Ban said Lebanese security forces reported that militias, including Hezbollah, were conducting military training around the country, and handing out weapons to their supporters.

"The re-emergence of militias is certainly one of the most disturbing developments over the past six months," Ban said.

Meanwhile, Lebanese troops opened fire yesterday on Israeli warplanes flying low over southern Lebanon, but no hits were reported, Lebanese officials said.

A security official said a total of 150 rounds were fired as soldiers opened up at two planes that flew by just east of Marjayoun town.

A senior military officer said the army "confronted" the planes.

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