General Suleiman to be Lebanon president
Tuesday, 27 May 2008

REUTERS, BEIRUT - Lebanon's parliament is set to vote in army chief General Michel Suleiman as the country's 11th president on Sunday, filling a post left vacant for six months by a crisis that threatened a new civil war.

A Qatari-brokered deal between rival Lebanese leaders last week defused 18 months of political stalemate that erupted into street fighting this month. Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters briefly seized parts of Beirut, routing government loyalists.

Members of parliament from the U.S.-supported ruling majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition will attend a parliamentary session at 1400 GMT (3 p.m. EDT) to elect Suleiman as president, as stipulated by the Doha agreement. The vote had been postponed 19 times because of the crisis.

The deal achieved most of the opposition's demands and secured the election of a president who has good ties with Syria and Hezbollah. The agreement was widely seen as a setback to Washington and its allies, who had pressed for the disarming of Hezbollah and the isolation of Damascus.

"God willing, with the election of the president, Lebanon will move into a stage of stability and calm ...," Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on arrival in Beirut to attend the vote.

The deal also calls for the formation of a national unity government where the opposition has veto power and a new law for the 2009 general election.

The agreement aims to defuse a conflict that has stoked sectarian tensions, paralysed government and the country's constitutional institutions, and battered the economy.

Parliament has not met for more than a year and a half, during which time the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has barely functioned. Bouts of violence claimed scores of lives and revived memories of the 1975-90 civil war.

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