Rivalry intensifies in final Lebanon poll

Michel Aoun has accused Lebanon's main opposition alliance of vote-buying, as politicking intensified ahead of the decisive final round of parliamentary elections.

    Michel Aoun had been in exile since the Lebanese civil war

    Speaking on Friday, Aoun said that, during the election, Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, and the Lebanese Forces movement of Samir Geagea had been buying consciences.


    "How could I say that someone who is corrupting consciences, who is violating them with money, is going to fight against graft when he is the corrupter-in-chief?" Aoun said.


    Also on Friday, a delegation representing the Free National Trend party - led by Aoun - paid a surprise visit to the Islamic Group, the largest Sunni movement in Lebanon, Aljazeera reported.


    The visit comes amid intensive competition in the last round of the four-phase parliamentary elections, due to be held in Northern Lebanon on Sunday.


    Improbable alliance


    Aoun, who has formed an unlikely alliance with pro-Syrian politicians despite being driven into exile for 15 years by Damascus, rejected charges that Syrian intelligence officers had remained in Lebanon after April's troop pullout and were interfering in the elections.


    "The Syrian presence is a rumour," Aoun said.


    Syrian soldiers left Lebanon in
    April after 29 years

    He said if Interior Minister Hassan Sabeh was right in saying Syrian agents were intimidating voters, then he ought to step down for failing in his duty to ensure a free and fair election.


    "The interior minister pretends some Syrian officers are interfering in the elections. He has to resign because his duty is to arrest them and send them to trial," Aoun said.


    Aoun also said Sabeh should not be going to UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, US President George Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to tell them Syrian officers are in Lebanon.


    "We have to stop that and assume our responsibilities," he said. 


    With 28 seats up for grabs, Sunday's vote in the north will be decisive for the main opposition bloc's ambition to win control of parliament. In the first three rounds, it won 46 seats against 33 for the pro-Syrian Shia alliance of Amal and Hizb Allah and 21 for Aoun.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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