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Lebanon tensions rise as siege ends

Mitchell Prothero

Lebanon (for the full story, go to the Observer) Fears of renewed civil war as opposition parties raise the stakes over election of new president
It should have been a good week for Lebanon . . .there seemed to be sudden progress in the political stalemate between the Hizbollah-led opposition and the Western-backed government of Fuad Siniora, after it dropped its demand for the power of veto over all government decisions.

But after announcing that they would no longer push for a unity government if consensus could be reached on how to replace pro-opposition President Emile Lahoud, whose term ends in November, opposition parties announced they would force a vote on the issue in parliament on 25 September.

This sets the stage for the most tense confrontation yet. The fact that arguments over replacing Lahoud would take place before any talks between the two sparring factions could be held heightens the threat of constitutional crisis as Lebanon ‘s course continues to be charted by two deadly rival governments in an increasingly dangerous stand-off.

An anti-Syrian Christian leader, Samir Geagea, of the ruling coalition, yesterday accused Hizbollah of planning to sabotage the election if it believed the vote would not return a friendly president.

‘Hizbollah is playing a dangerous game,’ Geagea said. ‘Hizbollah is preparing to sabotage the presidential election session by force, armed force this time.’

More questions than answers are arising from the increasingly fractured political landscape amid rising fears that the Middle East ‘s most unpredictable nation is heading once again towards civil war.