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Beirut Quiet, Prime Minister Says Government Assumes Powers


Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Siniora says his care-taker government will temporarily assume the powers of Lebanon's president, until parliament is able to elect a successor to Emile Lahoud, who left office at midnight. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Beirut.

Lebanon awoke without a president Saturday, but despite the vacuum, people appeared to be going about business as usual.

The country's pro-Western Prime Minister Fuad Siniora met with Lebanon's Maronite Christian Patriarch and moved to assure the public by insisting that the situation is under control and there is no danger of violence.

He said there is no state of emergency and no need for Lebanese to be concerned about security. He said the army is in full control of the situation on the ground.

He also said that, under the country's constitution, the powers of the presidency devolve to the Cabinet.

On Friday, within hours of leaving office, outgoing president Emile Lahoud said the country was in a state of emergency.

For months, parliamentarians from rival political blocs have failed to reach an agreement on who would replace Mr. Lahoud, a Maronite Christian. On Friday, on the fifth attempt in more than a month, parliament failed again after the Hezbollah-led opposition boycotted a parliamentary session.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on November 30 to try once again to elect a president, although many observers doubt it will be able to do so.

Former Army Commander General Michel Aoun, the candidate of the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, continues to insist that he is the only viable candidate.

Pro-government Christian leader Samir Geagea has disputed the General's claim while insisting that holding the presidential election is the only solution to the current crisis.

He says that continuing Mr. Siniora's government is not a viable solution, even if it is legal according to the constitution.

Former President Lahoud and Hezbollah have repeatedly insisted that Mr. Siniora's government is illegal and unconstitutional, at times threatening to set up a rival government.

Lebanon is without a president for the second time in its history. The first time was in 1988, when the country was torn by two rival governments amid a bloody conflict that left hundreds dead.

The U.S. State Department is urging Lebanese leaders to elect a new president quickly, but has warned U.S. citizens about the possibility of unrest.

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