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Security Council demands free and fair poll in Beirut

The United Nations Security Council demanded on Monday that Lebanon's presidential election later this month be free, fair, and devoid of foreign meddling.

After closed-door consultations on Lebanon, the 15-member body issued a nonbinding statement stressing the "need to hold free and fair presidential elections in conformity with the Lebanese Constitution and without any foreign interference and influence."

The statement, read out by Indonesian UN envoy Marty Natalegawa, who chairs the council this month, reaffirmed "the need for all parties to resolve all political issues on the basis of reconciliation and national dialogue."

It was issued after the council heard a briefing from UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed Larsen on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559.

That resolution, passed in 2004, calls for the disarming and disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias as well as the restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad, meanwhile, said that in Washington's view presidents in democracies "can get elected by majority."

"We hope that there's the broadest possible support for the president who is elected [in Lebanon], but the election should take place on time without [foreign] interference," he added.

Khalilzad said the US also shared concerns expressed by UN chief Ban Ki-moon that incumbent Emile Lahoud "might not leave office as he should at midnight on November 23 or that an illegitimate separate government might be formed."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, in a television interview Monday, stressed the need for Syria to refrain from interfering, linking normalization of Franco-Syrian ties with Syrian compliance. He said the election must proceed without interference from anyone and that the Lebanese alone should choose the new president.

Parant later met Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Maarab, from where Parant called for the Lebanese to elect a president without foreign interference. "I told [Geagea] that efforts must be doubled to hold presidential elections with the widest possible support before November 24 in accordance with the Constitution," Parant told reporters after his meeting.

"The Lebanese must be given the opportunity to elect a new president for the republic freely without pressure or foreign interference amid a democratic atmosphere in compliance with Security Council resolutions," Parant said, "This is the message that [French[ President [Nicolas] Sarkozy's envoy to Damascus delivered and what was discussed between Kouchner and [Syrian Foreign Minister Walid] Moallem during their meeting in Istanbul."

Meanwhile, Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt praised the position of Lebanese Armed Forces commander General Michel Suleiman for respecting the Constitution and making it clear that he is neither a candidate for the presidency nor does he seek any political office.

In his weekly comments to the Progressive Socialist Party

newspaper Al-Anbaa, to be published Tuesday, Jumblatt said that as presidential polls draw closer security risks will increase. He said security threats could take many shapes and forms, some similar to events in Nahr al-Bared, aiming to destabilize the country and hinder state institutions "which is the policy adopted by the Syrian regime and its confederates in Lebanon."

Former President Amin Gemayel said that no matter how difficult or how great the sacrifices to "liberate" presidential elections and bolster Lebanon's sovereignty, it was preferable to risking internal strife. He said as the Lebanese are all in one boat it is vital to talk to everyone, speaking confidently in the name of what he termed the silent majority that only wants to live with dignity in a free country.

Speaker Nabih Berri received Monday in Ain al-Tineh March 14 MP Ghassan Tueni, who told reporters after the meeting that matters continue to move forward and all sides continue to be hopeful and optimistic. "Nothing new has emerged after the Paris meeting, we are still waiting," Tueni said, referring to the meeting between parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri and Change and Reform Bloc leader MP Michel Aoun.

Asked if the November 12 parliamentary session would proceed as expected, Tueni said he doubted presidential elections will take place on November 12. "There will be discussion among MPs on that date, both among MPs inside the hall and those outside it." He said "an agreement [between rival political factions] will not happen before 15 days, agreement is always reached in the final hour."

Hizbullah official Nawwaf Mousawi said the meeting between Aoun and Hariri has irritated March 14 Christians, prompting them to issue one threat after another. In a radio interview, Mousawi said the meeting in Paris laid the foundations for a new phase in relations but all hinged on what Hariri could achieve, "as he was not able to convince his allies in the past of accepting settlements reached with Hizbullah and Amal."

Beirut 06-11-2007
Redaction
The Daily Star



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