The French-language L'Orient-Le Jour said "nothing is less sure today than the election of the president".

Special report

Four parliamentary sessions at which a new president should have been named have been postponed over the past two months.

Nayla Moawad, the social affairs minister, suggested that Friday's session was also likely to be cancelled.
  
"I don't have a feeling that there will be elections tomorrow," she told AFP news agency. "Until now, there is no accord."

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin in Beirut said there seemed to be little hope expressed after meeting on Thursday morning.

"This is contrary to the optimism that was prevailing yesterday, it just evaporated and negotiations are back at square one," she said.

Parallel government

According to the Lebanese constitution, if no candidate is chosen by parliament to replace Lahoud, the outgoing head of state hands over power to the government, which can then pursue talks on a compromise candidate.
 
But there are fears that the opposition might set up a parallel government, a return to the situation at the end of the 1975-1990 civil war when two administrations fought for control.

"I don't have a feeling that there will be elections tomorrow"

Nayla Moawad, Social Affairs Minister
Bernard Kouchner, French foreign minister, and Miguel Angel Moratinos, his Spanish counterpart, on Thursday visited Michel Aoun, a Christian opposition leader.

Aoun has expressed interest in the presidency and has highlighted the fact that he is the only person to have received more than 70 per cent of the Christian vote in past elections.

The president must be a Maronite Christian according to Lebanon's system which divides power between the various sectarian groups.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Michel Edde, a former minister, could emerge as a candidate if he was able to assure the ruling March 14 bloc he would abide by UN resolutions.

The French and Spanish diplomats were due to meet other politicians from the two sides later in the day.

Lahoud's warning
 
Emile Lahoud, the outgoing president, said in a televised speech on Wednesday that he might take "unprecedented measures" if the deadlock was not broken.

The president said he would stay "committed to the last minute to the unity, security and stability of Lebanon".

However, he made no reference to previous warnings that he could name General Michel Suleiman, the armed forces chief, as head of a provisional  government if no agreement is reached on a new president.

A Hezbollah delegation met Lahoud on Thursday to give him their support for whatever measures he might take if no successor is named.

Security has been tightened around the capital Beirut before the parliamentary session and no public military parades have been planned to mark the 64th anniversary of Lebanon's independence.