Lebanon president vote postponed as compromise looms

Lebanon's parliament postponed for a week a vote that had been set for Friday to elect a new president amid signs fractious politicians might agree on giving the job to the army chief.

Lebanon president vote postponed as compromise looms
"In order to permit further consultations toward reaching a consensus on election of a president of the republic, (speaker Nabih) Berri decided to postpone the session scheduled for tomorrow until Friday, December 7 at 1:00 pm," his office said on Thursday night.

The postponment marks the sixth time since September that a vote has been put off.

Lebanon has been without a president since last Friday, when Emile Lahoud's term expired and he left office. The Western-backed ruling majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition have not been able to agree on a successor.

Earlier on Thursday, however, prominent Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, who had himself been a candidate, said he backed General Michel Sleiman for the job.

"Yes of course, I back him and I am very happy," Aoun told reporters. "If the majority wants and other parties in the opposition want, then it is okay."

The constitution bans senior public servants from seeking the presidency until two years after they have left their posts. Any amendment would have to be drafted by the government and then presented to parliament for ratification.

But Aoun and the rest of the opposition -- including the powerful Shiite party Hezbollah -- have branded the Western-backed government as illegitimate since the resignation of all Shiite cabinet members last year.

"There are constitutional obstacles that should be removed because the government is illegitimate," Aoun said.

On five previous occasions since September 24, parliament has failed to meet to choose a new president amid disputes between the ruling coalition and the opposition.

On Wednesday, the majority proposed Sleiman and said it was willing to drop its opposition to the constitution being amended to allow his candidacy, in order to spare the country further turmoil.

Hezbollah has declared that it would only back Sleiman if Aoun accepted.

But MP Salim Aoun, a member of Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, said "there are still many lingering issues, including the formation of the next government, the amendment of the electoral law and the arms of Hezbollah".

Sleiman, 59, was appointed nine years ago with the approval of the country's then powerbroker, Syria, and is generally well respected among all the country's factions.

He is credited with keeping the army united despite the upheavals that have shaken Lebanon since the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri and the subsequent pullout of Syrian troops after a 29-year deployment.

The crisis, the worst since the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, is widely seen as an extension of the regional confrontation pitting the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia against Iran and Syria.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Aralık 2007, 12:40