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Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 12:23 GMT
Vote on Lebanon president delayed
Troops outside the Lebanese parliament in Beirut (file)
The Lebanese parliament has been delayed the vote since September
Lebanese members of parliament have postponed for a seventh time a vote to elect a new president. They are now set to hold the vote on 11 December.

The pro-West ruling bloc and pro-Syrian opposition have agreed on army chief Gen Michel Suleiman, but are divided on the make-up of a new government.

There is also said to be a dispute over how to amend the constitution to allow a senior civil servant to be elected.

The deadlock meant Emile Lahoud stepped down last month without a successor.

When his term in office ended on 23 November, Mr Lahoud's presidential powers were passed to the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Correspondents say Gen Suleiman has remained neutral during the year-long political crisis and has repeatedly called on the army to keep out of politics.

During the deadlock - Lebanon's worst political crisis since the country's long civil war ended in 1990 - parliament has been crippled and the opposition has refused to recognise the government.

Constitutional amendment

Under Article 49 of the current constitution, senior civil servants are barred from becoming president within two years of stepping down.

Lebanon's army chief Gen Michel Suleiman (file)
Gen Suleiman has remained neutral in Lebanon's recent upheavals

The constitution has been amended twice since 1998, first to allow Mr Lahoud to become president and again in 2004 to extend his term by three years.

That move sharply divided Lebanon into pro-Western and anti-Syrian camps.

Months later, Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon amid huge protests after the assassination of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, who had recently joined the anti-Syrian side.

Any further amendment to the constitution would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the 128-seat parliament, something also required for the election of a new president. A quorum of two-thirds is also necessary for either vote.

Under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, the country's president must be from the Maronite Christian minority.

The post of prime minister is always reserved for a Sunni Muslim, while that of parliament speaker goes to a Shia.

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