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US Urges Pressure on Those Blocking Election of Lebanese President


The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has urged Syria and other factions to cease their demands to elect a new Lebanese president through what he calls "unconstitutional measures."

Zalmay Khalilzad spoke Friday, the same day Lebanon's parliament postponed for the 10th time a vote on a new president.

The vote had been scheduled for Saturday but lawmakers remained deadlocked over the shape of a future government.

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said the vote would be put off another week to give political leaders more time to reach a consensus.

Also Friday, Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition criticized President Bush for urging the country's Western-backed governing coalition to elect a new president unilaterally. Hezbollah said Mr. Bush's statements complicated efforts to forge a consensus deal between the governing coalition and the pro-Syrian opposition.

On Thursday, President Bush said Lebanon's ruling coalition should vote using its simple majority of parliament members if the deadlock over the presidency continues.

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.

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

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

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