Senior US diplomat calls for Lebanon elections without delay

The Lebanese parliament should meet and elect a new president without further delay or conditions from the Syrian-backed opposition, a senior US diplomat said Thursday. The remarks by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch are likely to further escalate the fierce power struggle in Lebanon between its US-backed parliamentary majority and the Syrian-backed opposition, led by Hizbullah. Welch arrived unexpectedly in Beirut on Thursday for talks on the country's political deadlock that has left Lebanon without a president for nearly five months. His visit - the second since December - highlights mounting international concern over Lebanon's failure so far to fill the top post, left vacant after pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud stepped down last November.