Hizbullah and its opposition allies blocked the election of Lebanon's next president Tuesday, boycotting a parliamentary session to prevent the backers of the anti-Syrian government from choosing a head of state from their own ranks.
But hardliners on the government side vowed to force through their choice if a compromise is not reached by the next parliament session on Oct. 23, a step that would escalate the political standoff and - some fear - split the country between two rival governments.
The attempt to elect a president is the latest potentially dangerous turn in Lebanon's monthslong power struggle between the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the opposition, led by Hizbullah, an ally of Syria and Iran.
Tuesday's gathering at parliament took place under tight security after last week's assassination of Antoine Ghanem, a lawmaker from Saniora's ruling coalition, in a bomb blast. It was the latest in a series of slayings of anti-Syrian figures, and coalition members fear more, blaming Syria for the slayings, an accusation Damascus denies.