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Lebanese Factions in Stalemate Hours Before Presidential Vote

Rival Lebanese factions engaged in last-minute talks with foreign envoys late Thursday to find a compromise candidate for president, but a breakthrough appeared unlikely ahead of Friday's deadline.

French, Italian and Spanish foreign ministers shuttled between the bitterly divided parties to conclude an agreement on a presidential candidate before midnight Friday, when the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud ends.

But they failed in their effort and sources close to the talks predicted a parliamentary session scheduled for this afternoon to vote for Mr. Lahoud's successor probably will be canceled.

Failure to elect a new president on time could lead to a power vacuum, or two rival governments battling for control, similar to the situation toward the end of Lebanon's civil war from 1975 to 1990.

Some fear the establishment of two governments could lead to a repeat of that violence.

The vote already has been postponed four times to give Lebanon's pro-Western governing coalition and the Hezbollah-led, pro-Syrian opposition time to find a consensus candidate.

Rival factions have been engaged in a year-long power struggle about who will succeed Mr. Lahoud. Lebanon's government has threatened to use its simple parliamentary majority to elect one of its own members if the factions do not agree on a candidate.

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