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Lebanon's Presidential Vote Looks Set For Another Delay


Lebanon's parliament is scheduled to vote Friday to select a president, but the election is likely to be delayed for the seventh time, with rival parties blaming each other for halting the process.

Party leaders on Thursday remained divided on how to amend the constitution to enable army chief Michel Suleiman to be elected and on the make-up of the new cabinet. Suleiman is seen as a neutral figure that could resolve the conflict between the western-backed majority and the opposition led by the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.

Lebanon has been without a president since November 23 when Emile Lahoud's term ended.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has been mediating between the two camps since Tuesday in an effort to end Lebanon's political impasse.

Officials say Kouchner had two meetings with parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and speaker Nabih Berri in an effort to reach enough consensus in the parliament to hold the vote.

Reports say Hariri insists on holding the election before discussing other related issues.

Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun demands an understanding on the future cabinet before holding the vote. The opposition also proposed having an independent prime minister, which Hariri rejects, because it would disqualify him from running for the post.

Lebanon's parliamentary system is designed to give each major religious group fair representation in the government. But it also enables one group to halt the political process.

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

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