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Middle East
Lebanon presidency deal elusive
Unresolved disagreements threaten to delay Friday's parliamentary vote again.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2007 17:19 GMT
Kouchner, right,  is attempting to help Lebanon's leaders reach a consensus [AFP]
Lebanese political leaders have failed to agree on having the country's army chief elected as president, a day before the parliament is scheduled to elect a new head of state.
 
In recent days, General Michel Suleiman, who leads the national army, has emerged as a possible consensus candidate for the rival camps.
However, Michel Aoun, a Christian opposition leader, said on Thursday that he would only endorse Suleiman for two years until parliamentary elections in 2009.
 
He said the ruling March 14 majority alliance was responsible for the deadlock.
"I have made enough compromises and I will add a new demand every day," Aoun said.
 
Vote delay
 
It now appears unlikely that Friday's vote to elect a president will go ahead.
 
Aoun, who leads the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), had himself sought the presidency and was the Hezbollah-led opposition's preferred candidate.
 
The ruling majority "led us to the void. They thought that the void would scare us ... but it does not scare us and the presidency will always be there," he said.
 
Aoun is only willing to support a consensus
candidate until parliamentary elections [AFP]
He said he was willing to wait for what he sees as the right leader for Lebanon.

"If not now, in a week, if not, in a month or in a year. The country will not be destroyed, more than this current government has been destroying it."
 
Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker and a prominent opposition leader, meanwhile  met Saad al-Hariri, leader of the majority March 14 bloc, twice on Thursday.
 
Their meeting,to discuss the issue of the presidency, was attended by Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister.
 
The March 14 majority, which is against Syrian domination, and the opposition March 8 group, which is led by Syrian-supported Hezbollah, have not agreed on a president after six abandoned parliamentary sessions.
 
No agreement
 
The first meeting on Thursday between Berri and al-Hariri ended without any statements.

After a second meeting, Kouchner said: "Work continues, the meetings continue and we'll brief you when the job is done."

Special report

The leaders also discussed laws for a 2009 parliamentary election.

Sources said Friday's vote could be delayed amid reservations voiced by Aoun.

Aoun, whose FPM organisation is allied to Hezbollah, has said that a consensus prime minister must also be agreed between the political factions.

Aoun seeks guarantees that the size of his parliamentary bloc – the largest of any Christian faction – be recognised in the new cabinet.

The FPM is currently not represented in the cabinet of Fouad Siniora, Lebanon's prime minister.

An ongoing political crisis between the March 14 majority and March 8-led opposition has paralysed Lebanon for more than a year.
 
Lebanon's president must be a Maronite Christian in line with the country's confessional power-sharing system.

Suleiman, 59, is favoured by the opposition as a compromise candidate after the majority rejected Aoun nomination.

Suleiman was appointed army chief in 1998 when Syrian troops and security forces had a presence in Lebanon.

The March 14 majority declared its support for Suleiman on Sunday, dropping its opposition to a constitutional amendment needed to allow a senior public servant to become president.

Source:
Agencies
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