Lebanon parliament petitioned on presidential poll

A draft petition for an amendment to Lebanon's constitution to allow the country's army chief to assume the vacant presidency has been submitted to parliament, MP Robert Ghanem said on Saturday.

Lebanon parliament petitioned on presidential poll
"We prepared a draft petition after making some amendments to it and we have sent it to (speaker) Nabih Berri" for his approval, said the deputy from the Western-backed ruling majority who heads parliament's legal commission.

Ghanem was speaking a day after Berri postponed -- for the seventh time since September -- a session in parliament to elect a new president to replace Emile Lahoud whose term ended on November 23.

A new date for the vote has been set for Tuesday to give feuding pro-Syrian and Western-backed politicians another chance to settle their differences and choose Lahoud's successor.

The two camps have agreed in principle to elect army chief General Michel Sleiman, but are still divided on how to amend the constitution to allow for his election, as well as on the shape and policies of the future government.

Article 49 of the constitution stipulates that the presidency cannot be given to an acting senior civil servant, unless 10 MPs petition for a constitutional amendment that must then be approved by two thirds of parliament and endorsed by the government.

If Berri approves the draft petition prepared by Ghanem and fellow MP and former justice minister Bahige Tabbara, it must be signed by 10 deputies -- five from the majority and five from the opposition.

"I am optimistic that opposition MPs will sign the petition alongside those of the ruling majority," Ghanem said.

Ali Bazzi, an MP from Berri's Amal political bloc, also expressed optimism.

"We are heading towards ending the crisis over the presidency," he said.

"Amal opposition MPs are ready to sign the petition to amend the constitution" allowing for Sleiman to be elected, Bazzi said.

But Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, also a presidential hopeful and former army chief, steadfastly refused to budge from several demands.

Aoun wants the new president to serve until the 2009 legislative polls instead of six years as stipulated by the constitution, and is opposed to any new government headed by majority leader Saad Hariri.

"We will not accept any formula to amend the constitution without a comprehensive settlement, and this settlement will be fair if it says clearly that the majority leader will not head the next government," the pro-opposition daily Al-Akhbar quoted Aoun as saying on Saturday.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Aralık 2007, 14:27