Lebanon crisis threatens Arab League summit

Presidential vote delayed because the parties have failed to agree on the power-sharing structure.

michel suleiman 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
michel suleiman 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A conference of the Arab League scheduled for next month may be jeopardized if the power vacuum in Lebanon is not resolved. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora has said warned that the summit will "lose its importance" if Lebanon does not have a president by the time of the meeting. Senior representatives of the 22-member league are scheduled to meet in Damascus on March 27-29. There are indications that Saudi King Abdullah might not attend if the Lebanese deadlock continues. Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syria president Emile Lahoud's term ended in late November. Riva parties have agreed on army chief Michel Suleiman as a consensus candidate, but the parliamentary vote for a new president has been repeatedly delayed because the parties have failed to agree on the power-sharing structure for the future government. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa has been trying to end the political deadlock in Lebanon and mediate between the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the Syrian-backed opposition, without much success. Saniora, a member of the anti-Syrian ruling coalition, said the summit should be attended by the presidents of all the Arab countries. Damascus might facilitate a last-minute parliamentary election of a president, the London-based daily Al-Hayat reported on Tuesday, as Syria wishes to avoid a boycott of the summit. Lebanon is yet to receive an official invitation from Syria to participate in the summit. Syria ended a 29-year military presence in Lebanon in 2005, but many say Damascus still holds sway in the country.