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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 23:57 GMT
Lebanon postpones vote yet again
Lebanon's army chief Gen Michel Suleiman (file)
Gen Suleiman has remained neutral in Lebanon's recent upheavals
Lebanese members of parliament have postponed for an eighth time their vote to elect a new president, with 17 December called as the new date.

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 the 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.

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

Deadlock

Under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, the country's president must be from the Maronite Christian minority, while the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim and the president of parliament a Shia.

Troops outside the Lebanese parliament in Beirut (file)
The Lebanese parliament has been delaying the vote since September

Gen Suleiman, who is a Maronite, left a meeting with the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, on Monday without making any comment.

The deadlock over the president is Lebanon's worst political crisis since the country's long civil war ended in 1990.

The economy and parliament have been crippled, and the opposition have refused to recognise the government.

Correspondents say Gen Suleiman has remained neutral amid feuding between the government and opposition, and has repeatedly called for the army to be kept out of politics.

The governing coalition needs a two-thirds majority to elect the president, or 86 of the 128 MPs, but holds only 68 seats.

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