Saturday, 23 September, 2023

Lebanon speaker urges talks to fill presidential vacancy

Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri called Thursday on political blocs to engage in dialogue next month to elect a president, a vacancy that has been unfilled for 10 months.

Crisis-hit Lebanon has been without a president since Michel Aoun's term ended in October last year, with neither of the two main blocs -- the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its opponents -- having the majority required to elect one.

"I call on the leaders and representatives of the parliamentary blocs to take part in a dialogue in parliament in September, for a period not exceeding seven days, following which open sessions would be held... to achieve the election of a president," Berri said.

The speaker, whose Shiite Amal movement is closely aligned with Hezbollah, said he was making the appeal "before it is too late".

Lebanon, long divided on sectarian lines, has been hit both by a political void and a major economic crisis.

By convention, the presidency goes to a Maronite Christian, the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and the post of parliament speaker goes to a Shiite Muslim.

Berri has so far refused requests from members of the anti-Hezbollah camp to hold open sessions until a president is elected.

The blocs opposed to Hezbollah and its allies have refused to take part in talks to agree on a head of state before proceeding with a vote, preferring to rely on the democratic process.