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Friday, November 23, 2007 Lebanon slides into constitutional crisis as president ends term without successor

Lebanon slid into constitutional crisis Friday as pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud purported to declare a “state of emergency” and hand security responsibility to the army in a vaguely worded statement issued just before leaving office midnight at the end of his term without an elected successor in place. Earlier Friday, anti-Syrian and pro-Syrian factions in Lebanon’s parliament failed in a last-ditch effort to agree on a new president and postponed for a fifth time a planned session to formally elect a candidate, who under Lebanon’s constitution [text, in French] must be a Maronite Christian.

Lahoud’s emergency was immediately rejected by the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who noted through a spokesman that Lebanon’s constitution did not permit the president to declare a state of emergency without obtaining the approval of the government under Article 65 Its Article 62 moreover provides that presidential powers revert to the government if the office of president falls vacant. Lahoud, however, has long considered the Senoria government itself unconstitutional after six pro-Syrian Shiite ministers quit the cabinet late last year.

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