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Lebanon presidential elections delayed till Nov. 30 amid crisis

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BEIRUT, November 23 (RIA Novosti) - A session of the Lebanese parliament for electing a new president has been postponed until November 30 amid a looming political crisis that could lead to violence between rival factions.

Lawmakers in Lebanon were set to vote on a new president during a parliamentary session on Friday, before incumbent pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term expires at midnight, but the opposition and the ruling anti-Syrian coalition failed again to agree on a candidate.

"To allow for more consultations to arrive at the election of a president...the session is postponed to Friday, November 30," a spokesman quoted Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri as saying in a statement.

Under the Lebanese Constitution, a president is elected by parliament for a six-year, non-renewable term. However, Lahoud's term, which was due to end in 2004, was extended until 2007 by an ad hoc amendment allowing him to stay in power.

It is the fifth time since September 25 that the Hezbollah-led opposition has boycotted the vote to elect a new president, preventing the two-thirds quorum required for the procedure, in a bid to stop the U.S.-supported majority from electing a president from their own ranks.

If parliament is unable to elect a president on November 30, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his Cabinet will automatically assume executive powers.

However, Lahoud has repeatedly stated that he will not hand power over to Siniora's Western-backed government.

The current crisis has the very real potential to lead to the emergence of two rival governments, and subsequent political chaos.

Lebanon witnessed a devastating civil war from 1975-1990, and has seen a chain of political assassinations in recent years, including the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005.

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