Speaker calls on Lebanese parliament to elect president on April 23

BEIRUT Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:59am EDT

Lebanese Parliament speaker Nabih Berri strikes his gavel at the end of a parliamentary session in parliament in Beirut, May 31, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanese Parliament speaker Nabih Berri strikes his gavel at the end of a parliamentary session in parliament in Beirut, May 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri called on Wednesday for parliament to elect a new president on April 23, in a race overshadowed by growing violence and political paralysis.

President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in late May. Parliament must approve his successor with a two-thirds majority but political sources say the process is likely to be delayed, possibly for months, due to divisions in parliament over the Syrian war.

Lebanon's National News Agency said Berri had called Cardinal Beshara al-Rai, the head of Lebanon's Maronite Christian Church, and informed him of his decision.

Under Lebanon's political system, which seeks to guarantee representation for its various sects and religions, the president must be a Maronite Christian.

Heavily influenced by the war in neighboring Syria, and host to more than a million Syrian refugees, Lebanon has struggled to control a deterioration in security and an economic slowdown.

In February, Lebanon formed a new government, breaking a 10-month political deadlock during which a caretaker government with limited powers was in charge.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam; editing by Andrew Roche)

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