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France's Sarkozy Urges Lebanon to Elect President


French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged Lebanon's parliament to elect a new head of state Saturday to fill the vacant post of president.

In an interview with the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat published Wednesday, Mr. Sarkozy says a Lebanese parliamentary vote set for Saturday represents what he says is the country's "last opportunity" to avert political chaos.

Mr. Sarkozy says that if the much-delayed presidential election is postponed for a 10th time, Lebanon faces the risk of what he calls "new confrontations and the emergence of two rival governments."

Mr. Sarkozy says he asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a telephone call Sunday to press Syria's Lebanese allies to let Saturday's election go ahead.

U.S. envoy David Welch met Lebanese government and opposition figures in Beirut for a second day Wednesday to urge them to resolve differences ahead of Saturday's vote.

Lebanon's pro-Western ruling coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition have agreed that army chief General Michel Suleiman should become the next president. But they have failed to reach a broader agreement on how to fill other government posts.

The two sides also disagree about how to amend Lebanon's constitution to allow General Suleiman to be elected. The charter forbids senior political appointees from standing for president while in office.

Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down on November 23 at the end of his term.

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

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