Lebanese Maronite Patriarch calls for presidential election prior to new gov’t

By Xinhua

Beirut : Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on Tuesday stressed the need to elect a president prior to the formation of a national unity government, local Naharnet news website reported.

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Presidential elections should precede a new cabinet “since the president has a say in the formation of the government through parliamentary consultations,” Sfeir was quoted as saying.

Arab foreign ministers held a special meeting in Cairo Sunday, approving an Arab plan to end the crisis in Lebanon.

The three-point plan aimed at immediately electing General Michel Suleiman as Lebanese president and proceeding to forming a government of national unity and drafting a new electoral law.

Lebanese presidential seat has been vacant since former President Emile Lahoud ended his term on Nov. 24, and the sharply divided Lebanese parliament has delayed the elections for eleven times without a consensus.

The two camps have agreed in principle to elect Michel Suleimanas president, but are still divided on how to amend the constitution to allow for his election, as well as on the shape and policies of the future government.

Lebanese ruling coalition and the opposition have been separated by a wide chasm since six of the latter’s ministers resigned from Fouad Seniora’s government in November 2006.