April 22, 2008 / 11:08 AM / 11 years ago

Lebanon parliament fails to elect president again

BEIRUT, April 22 (Reuters) - Lebanon’s parliament failed to hold a session to elect a president on Tuesday — the 18th time the chamber has been unable to hold a vote derailed by the worst political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri did not set a new election date and instead called on rival leaders to hold roundtable talks.

"In one, two or three days at most if I don’t find a (positive) response for the dialogue, I will set a new session," Berri, also an opposition leader, told reporters after parliament failed to hold the vote due to lack of two-thirds quorum.

The political crisis has paralysed much of government, left the presidency vacant since November and led to bouts of lethal street violence in a country still rebuilding from its 15-year civil war.

It has also poisoned ties between Saudi Arabia and Syria, which back opposing sides in the conflict.

Riyadh supports the Beirut governing coalition, along with Western countries including the United States, while Syria and its ally Iran back the opposition alliance led by Hezbollah.

Several Arab countries as well as Washington and Paris are holding a meeting in Kuwait later on Tuesday to discuss the Lebanese crisis on the sidelines of a foreign ministers’ conference on Iraq.

The Lebanese rivals have agreed that army chief General Michel Suleiman should fill the presidency, vacant since the term of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud expired in November.

But Suleiman’s confirmation by parliament has been repeatedly derailed by a dispute over the make-up of a cabinet to be formed after his election and a parliamentary election law. Parliament cannot convene to elect the president unless there is a deal between the rival camps that will secure a quorum for the vote. (Reporting by Beirut bureau; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)

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