Pope calls Lebanese presidential vote 'crucial' for nation's survival

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday described Lebanon's approaching presidential elections as crucial to the nation's survival and called on leaders there to set aside personal interests for the sake of common good. Rival factions are deadlocked over the choice of candidates, two weeks before the current president has to step down, and a lawmaker has urged the head of the influential Maronite Catholic Church to bring together Maronite leaders with the aim of finding a compromise. Under Lebanon's political system, the president should be a Maronite. The church fears a power vacuum could threaten the Maronites' hold on the post. "As the numerous initiatives of these days show, it's a crucial passage, upon which depends the very survival of Lebanon and its institutions," Benedict said.