The constitution says that parliament should meet on September 25 to elect a replacement for Emile Lahoud, whose term expires at midnight on November 23.

Parliament paralysed

Opposition MPs are needed at the vote for a two-thirds quorum to be met. The governing coalition holds just 69 of the 128 seats in parliament.

"The election of a consensus presidential candidate, with a 'Made in Lebanon' tag ... marks an opportunity for the country to break the current political impasse"

Nabih Berri, parliamentary speaker
Parliament has been paralysed since November because of a boycott by the opposition who say the current government is unconstitutional after six opposition cabinet ministers resigned.

Supporters of Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, want Lahoud replaced with someone without links to Damascus ever since Syrian troops left Lebanon in 2005.
   
But Hezbollah and the other opposition groups are equally determined to keep the presidency out of the hands of political adversaries it says are controlled by Washington, and little progress has been made on finding a compromise presidential candidate.

"We are not abandoning our demand for you, but for Lebanon," Berri said on Friday, referring to the ruling majority.

Speaking before thousands of supporters gathered to commemorate the disappearance of Shia leader Imam Musa Sadr in 1978, Berri said the concession made by the opposition did not amount to a victory for the parliamentary majority.

'Made in Lebanon'
  
"The election of a consensus presidential candidate, with a 'Made in Lebanon' tag and within the time limits set by the constitution, marks an opportunity for the country to break the current political impasse," he said.   

Members of Siniora's coalition have recently said that in if the impasse could not be broken, their side had the right to use its parliamentary majority to ensure the election goes ahead.

But Berri said: "The constitution is clear, two thirds of the deputies must elect the president."

On Thursday, Lahoud threatened to appoint the country's army chief to head an interim government if the political rivals could not agree on a candidate to replace him.