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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Press unease over Lebanon poll

As Lebanon goes to the polls in the first parliamentary elections in 30 years free from the presence of foreign troops, newspapers in the region are far from optimistic about the prospects for Lebanese democracy.

A number of commentators are unhappy about what they see as the influence of other countries following the departure of Syrian forces, not least the United States.

And fears are expressed about the quality of the candidates and the relatively low number standing for election.

A commentator in Lebanon's al-Nahar accuses US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of "pre-judging the first round of today's elections" by saying that they are taking place "during a transitional period and will not serve as a model".

America is trying its best to fish in this troubled water
Iran's Jomhuri-ye Eslami

The commentator goes on to say that if the elections have any legitimacy, it is because of internal issues and "not the presence of observers from the UN or the European Union".

Another Lebanese daily, al-Anwar, points out that "the Americans are in Beirut and the Europeans arrived before them".

Iran's hard-line Jomhuri-ye Eslami pulls no punches in its assessment of foreign interference.

"America is trying its best to fish in this troubled water. Lebanon's situation is rapidly changing and it needs political groups to adopt suitable strategies," it says.

"Don't let foreigners exploit the situation."

Lebanon's al-Safir worries "that the number of candidates who will take part will be the lowest ever in Lebanon since 1972".

If we put together what is said about the politicians, none of them would even make it to the electoral list
Lebanon's al-Anwar

And another commentator in Lebanon's Al-Anwar laments the level of electoral debate.

"Every four years, politicians talk about each other. One talks about plundering, the other about misappropriation, another says the dossier of such and such is not clean!... If we put together what is said about the politicians, none of them would even make it to the electoral list."

One positive comment on the election comes from the London-based al-Hayat. "The head of the international observer committee expects it to be free and fair," it says.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

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