BEIRUT (AFP) — A parliament session due on Monday to elect Lebanon's president has been postponed to February 11, despite Arab mediation to break the deadlock, the parliament speaker's office announced on Sunday.
"Monday's session has been postponed until February 11 to allow further dialogue between the different parties on the Arab initiative," the office of speaker Nabih Berri said.
Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down on November 23 amid a deadlock in parliament between the Western-backed ruling majority and the opposition, which is backed by Syria and Iran.
The latest delay brings to 13 the number of sessions that have had to be postponed since September 25, amid failure by the rival parties to pick a successor to Lahoud.
The three-week delay came as Arab League chief Amr Mussa was in Beirut in a new bid to win support for a three-point plan to pave the way for the election, a day after holding talks in Damascus with the Syrian leadership.
"There are difficulties at each corner... and on each detail of the Lebanese issue," Mussa told reporters after separate talks with Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Berri, who is a leading opposition figure.
"There is a lot of work still left to be done. We have to get rid of the difficulties one by one," Mussa told reporters.
The Arab plan calls for the election of army chief General Michel Sleiman as president, the formation of a national unity government in which no one party has veto power and the adoption of a new electoral law.
The ruling majority has accepted the bid but the Hezbollah-led opposition is demanding it be granted a third of the seats in a new government so the opposition can have veto power.
On Saturday, Berri told AFP in an interview that the Arab League must clarify its initiative to end Lebanon's presidential crisis, the worst facing the troubled country since the end of its 1975-1990 civil war.
But Mussa insisted the Arab plan was "not at an impasse."
"The door is closed but it still can be opened," he said of the initiative which he has been trying to persuade feuding politicians to accept during a series of marathon talks last week in Lebanon.
"Efforts must be pursued to reach an agreement to elect a president," said Mussa, who was due to leave Lebanon later Sunday.
On Thursday, the head of the 22-member pan-Arab organisation hosted a rare meeting between parliamentary majority head Saad Hariri and opposition leader Michel Aoun before heading to Damascus for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We are advancing step by step," Mussa said after talks with Assad.
In Beirut on Sunday, Mussa also held talks with US charge d'affaires William Grant and French counterpart Andre Parant, whose countries have accused Syria of blocking the election.
Damascus has levelled similar charges against the United States.
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