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France's Top Diplomat Meets With Lebanese Political Leaders


France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner held a joint meeting Wednesday with leaders of Lebanon's rival factions in hopes of forging an agreement on a presidential candidate.

Kouchner held talks in Beirut with pro-Syrian Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and pro-Western parliamentary majority leader Saad al-Hariri.

Kouchner is also to speak with Lebanon's army chief, General Michel Suleiman, who has emerged as a frontrunner to succeed pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.

Lebanon's parliament is scheduled to meet Friday to elect a successor to Mr. Lahoud, whose term ended nearly two weeks ago.

The vote has been postponed six times to give the pro-Western government and pro-Syrian opposition more time to agree on a candidate.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the delay in electing a new Lebanese president. In a statement today, the U.N. chief said he believes it is now time for the matter to be resolved.

Lebanon's governing coalition formally nominated General Suleiman to be the next president last Sunday.

For General Suleiman to be elected, the Lebanese parliament must amend the country's constitution, which bars senior public servants from seeking the presidency until two years after resigning from office.

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

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