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Hunt for new Lebanese president down to the wire

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Hunt for new Lebanese president down to the wire


It is D-Day in Lebanon, with just hours before the mandate of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expires and still no sign of who will replace him. Last night, pro-Western deputies were urged by leaders to turn out in force for a ballot today. But their majority is far from the two-thirds quorum normally needed.

And the opposition is threatening to boycott this fifth attempt since September to take a vote. Christian opposition leader, Michel Aoun, did put forward a proposal to break the deadlock. He suggested a compromise candidate from his party to serve for just two years alongside a neutral prime minister.

But his offer has already been rejected. With the situation risking destabilising the whole region, several figures including French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner have been trying to mediate.

Last night, his Italian counterpart, Massimo D’Alema, remained positive. “Today it’s very difficult. What we need, not us but the Lebanese people, is more time. But I think a possibility still exists,” he said.

Given the real fear that the situation could lead to major civil unrest, the Lebanese army has already taken up position in key areas around Beirut.

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