Lahoud hands over security to army

President’s decision hours before stepping down deepens Lebanon’s political crisis.

Emile Lahoud Lebanese president
Lahoud has vowed not to hand executive power to the government, which he does not recognise [AP]
An official in the office of Fuad Siniora, the prime minister, said Lebanon’s government rejected as “unconstitutional” Lahoud’s decision to hand over security to the army.

Election postponed

Earlier on Friday, a vote to elect a successor to Lahoud was postponed after the Hezbollah-led opposition threatened to boycott the poll.
The parliamentary vote set for Friday was put off for a week, the office of Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, said just hours before lawmakers were scheduled to cast their ballots.
The vote had been the last chance to choose a president before Lahoud leaves office.
Many Lebanese fear the failure to elect a new president could throw the country deeper into political chaos and violence.
However, speaking to Al Jazeera, Nadim Shahada, a political analyst in Beirut, said: “In a way the Lebanese have shown they have a very healthy political system. In most countries this could be considered normal politics. There is no appetite for civil war. 
Crippling impasse
In a statement read on his behalf, Berri said: “To allow for more consultations to arrive at the election of a president… the session is postponed to Friday, November 30.”
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The opposition had earlier said it would not take part in the session, denying the chamber the necessary two-thirds quorum.

Four previous sessions in the last two months to pick Lahoud’s successor were also called off because of the ongoing standoff.
Politicians from the ruling coalition and the opposition have been unable to agree on a compromise presidential candidate, prompting fears of a power vacuum or the formation of two rival governments, as was the case at the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
The army was deployed heavily in the capital on Friday, with tanks and troops at all major intersections, and the downtown area where the parliament building is located was declared off-limits.
Tight security
Extra security measures were taken around a five-star hotel where dozens of anti-Syrian lawmakers have been staying for the past two months under guard for fear of assassination.

Many Lebanese fear the failure to elect a
president will bring political chaos

On Thursday, Michel Aoun, a Christian opposition leader, offered an 11th-hour solution to the political impasse, suggesting that his camp name an interim president and the ruling majority appoint a prime minister, but the offer was quickly rejected by the majority.

The ruling coalition, which has 68 deputies in the 127-member parliament, had repeatedly vowed to proceed with a simple majority vote if no agreement is reached.
But Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, warned that any attempt by the ruling coalition, which has a slim majority in parliament, would be tantamount to a coup.
Trading charges
With no agreement on a candidate to replace Lahoud, the president’s powers could pass to the government, in line with the Lebanese constitution.
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But Lahoud has vowed not to hand executive power to the government of Siniora, which he does not recognise.

He has previously floated the idea of appointing an interim military government and he could also declare a state of emergency.
The US and its local allies blame Syria for the deadlock.
Hezbollah and its Christian allies, led by Aoun, say the US-backed majority wants to keep them from their rightful share in power and accuse Washington of trying to control Lebanon.
Foreign mediation
Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, whose country has been leading efforts to resolve the crisis, left Beirut on Thursday after the latest in a series of failed mediation efforts.

Al Jazeera speaks to Boutros Harb, MP and a March 14 camp presidential hopeful

The foreign ministers of Italy and Spain had earlier voiced pessimism after a last-ditch attempt to get the rival sides to agree failed.

The standoff between Siniora’s government and Hezbollah began after the Shia group, empowered by its 34-day war with Israel last year, pulled its five ministers from the cabinet in November 2006.
The army has warned against internal strife and both sides accuse the other of arming their supporters.
Source: News Agencies