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French Foreign Minister Meets with Lebanese Politicians on Presidential Deadlock


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner held talks in Lebanon Tuesday in an effort to help rival politicians resolve a crisis over selecting a presidential candidate.

Kouchner met with the head of Lebanon's influential Christian Maronite Church, Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, early Tuesday. Parliament traditionally chooses a Maronite Christian as president.

The visiting French minister also met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, parliament speaker Nabih Berri and other lawmakers during the one-day visit.

Kouchner says he will return to Beirut November 19. He says the sides must find a compromise presidential candidate.

Lebanon's parliament is to vote on a new president November 21, days before the term of outgoing pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expires. The vote had been postponed three times to give the anti-Syrian government and the pro-Syrian opposition more time to find a consensus candidate.

President Bush on Monday called Prime Minister Siniora to urge Lebanon to hold free and fair elections on time, without foreign interference.

Lebanon's government has threatened to use its simple parliamentary majority to elect one of its own members if the factions do not agree on a candidate.

In other news, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has nominated a Canadian, Daniel Bellemare, to head the U.N. investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who died in a truck bomb attack in Beirut in 2005.

An initial U.N. inquiry implicated senior Syrian intelligence officials in the killing. Syria condemned the attack and vehemently denied any involvement.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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