Lebanon fails to elect president for 18th time

Other News Materials 22 April 2008 16:18 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Lawmakers from the ruling anti-Syrian majority failed at the Lebanese parliament Tuesday to elect a president for for the 18th time, owing to persistent differences among the rival leaders.

"I will not set a new date for the parliament session, we have to sit down for dialogue first," House Speaker Nabih Berri told reporters at the Lebanese parliament.

Lebanon's parliament has been paralysed over the election of a new president for over 16 months.

"I will wait a few days until I receive a response from the majority to sit down for dialogue and then we will set a date for a new session for the parliamentary session," Berri said.

Lebanon's parliament on Tuesday was making another attempt to convene lawmakers from the country's divided factions to elect a president amid a deep political crisis that has left the post vacant since November 23, 2007.

Berri said last week that a return to the dialogue table hinges on favourable positions being taken by all sides, particularly the majority.

"The issue of resuming dialogue depends on the consent of different parties, particularly the pro-government side so that we work together to salvage Lebanon," Berri said.

Berri also said that the dialogue's agenda was made up of three points: the election of Army Chief General Michel Suleiman president, the formation of a national unity government and the 1960 electoral law.

Berri stressed that logically the dialogue should continue after the election of a new head of state and the formation of a cabinet of national unity and that the new president would head the meetings at the presidential palace.

Hezbollah Member of Parliament Hussein Haj Hassan accused the majority of "obstrcting a solution through not agreeing to Berri's initiative to sit for dialgoue before the parliament session is set to elect a president."

Majority MP Amar Houri said "Berri's initiative does not give clear guidelines for so-called dialgoue among the factions, it gives what the opposition wants and their demands."

"The president of the country should be elected and then all dialgoues will take place under his supervision," Houri said.

Parliamentary sessions to elect a successor to head of state Emile Lahoud have been postponed 17 times since September amid a standoff between the pro-government camp and the Hezbollah-led opposition on the formation of the national unity government after General Michel Suleiman is elected.

The majority wants to elect a president then discuss the issue of the new government, but the opposition wants to set up the new cabinet before they agree to elect Suleiman.