French FM fails to end impasse in Lebanon
Lebanon's parliamentary vote due on Friday to elect a president appears heading to another delay as rival parties accuse each other of blocking the process, politicians said Thursday. "Friday's session is most probably going to be delayed," said Ammar Houry, an MP from the ruling coalition Future bloc.
Rival leaders have agreed on army chief General Michel Suleiman for the post but are still divided on how to amend the constitution to allow his election and the make-up of a new cabinet, officials told AFP. MP Ibrahim Kanaan of the Free Patriotic Movement of Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, said the vote would probably be delayed by common agreement between the ruling majority and the Hizbullah-led opposition.
"Even if there is a political agreement, we will not have time to carry out a constitutional amendment between today and tomorrow" to elect Suleiman, conveyed Kanaan. Article 49 of the constitution bars ranking public servants from assuming the presidency within two years of stepping down from their posts.
Six previous sessions scheduled to elect a president have already been postponed since September.
France has been leading efforts to end the crisis. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has been meeting leaders of the two rival camps since Tuesday, his seventh mediation bid in Beirut in the past six months. Early on Thursday, Kouchner met majority leader Saad Hariri and parliament speaker Nabih Berri for the second time in 24 hours, officials said.
As things stand it seems Kouchner failed to achieve a breakthrough. "Work is continuing, meetings are continuing, we'll be back and you will get the news when work is done," Kouchner told reporters as he emerged from a three-hour meeting Hariri and Berri at the latter's residence.
According to media reports, the Hizbullah-led opposition has been seeking a "comprehensive deal" to end the crisis, including agreements on the new president, the make-up of the next government, a new electoral law and the appointment of security chiefs. The ruling majority has insisted that it would not be tied down to any political deals before a president is elected.