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Lebanon's new premier says election delay likely

BEIRUT - Lebanon's June election faces a possible delay, prime minister-designate Tammam Salam said, as he prepared to form a government which aims to resolve months of dispute over the vote and shield the country from war in neighboring Syria.
Salam, a moderate who won broad political support to become premier, said he would try to bring all of Lebanon's rival factions into a government whose main priority was paving the way for the parliamentary election.
But with most political blocs opposed to the existing electoral law - including the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its Saudi- and Western-backed March 14 opponents - Salam said reaching agreement on a new system would take time.
"There is a possibility of a technical delay while a new electoral law is decided," Salam told Reuters in his Ottoman-style mansion in Beirut on Sunday, a day after President Michel Suleiman asked him to form a new government.
The alternative of extending the existing parliament's life by a year or two was constitutionally risky, said Salam, while the worst-case scenario of a political "vacuum" would be a step towards the catastrophic conflict underway in Syria and suffered by Lebanon in its own 1975-1990 civil war.
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