DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 9,18-22. Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"They said in reply, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, 'One of the ancient prophets has arisen.'" Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said in reply, "The Messiah of God." He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised."
Spectre of partition.Al-Ahram Weekly. September 28/07
Votes and assassinations in Lebanon.BBC News.September 28/07
Danger still stalks the Hariri tribunal.By Chibli Mallat.September 28/07
Rockets launched from Gaza are only hurting Palestinian civilians.The Daily StarSeptember 28/07
Sarkozy is pretty much a Gaullist on the Middle East.By Eric Rouleau.September 28/07
Latest News Reports From
Miscellaneous Sources for September 28/07
Resolution on Lebanon Passed by U.S. House.-Naharnet
'Israel will attack Syria very soon'.Jerusalem Post
Hizbullah: If Israel attacks Syria, we'll respond.Ynetnews
UN Security Council Calls for Free Elections in Lebanon.Voice of America
Berri Blasts as 'Meddling' U.N. Call for Timely Presidential Elections-Naharnet
Hariri Denies Differences with Geagea, Jumblat, Says Problem 'Rests with Others-Naharnet
Berri Sets Up Committees to Pursue Contacts with March 14-Naharnet
Preparations Underway For Hariri-Aoun Meeting-Naharnet
Arabs-Europeans Outraged at Syria, Support Lebanon's Consensus March-Naharnet
US to contribute 5 mln dlrs to Lebanon's Hariri tribunal.AFP
Lebanon encouraged to elect president.PRESS TV
Captured Israeli 'spy' allegedly had gay partners in Lebanon.Ya Libnan
Syrian plot to kill Lebanon's MP Ghanem exposed.Ya Libnan
Lebanon joins fight for Tony Mokbel.Melbourne Herald Sun
No more cat-and-mouse games.Guardian Unlimited
Talks on Lebanese president gain momentum.Jerusalem Post
Arab leaders urge cooperation in Lebanese presidential election.Daily Star
UN urges Lebanon to choose its own president on time.Daily Star
Beirut asks Athens to hand over crime boss.Daily Star
US takes in 67 Iraqi refugees living in Lebanon.Daily Star
Battle over Baabda pushes other issues out of the spotlight.Daily Star
Tuesday's session does not count as first round of presidential election.Daily Star
AUB kicks off academic year with 24 scholarships.Daily Star
Aley residents stage protest as quarry resumes activities.Daily Star
AUB students divided on perceptions of Lebanon's future.Daily Star
Beirutis of all ages feel rush from new academic year.Daily Star
An emigre, but always at home in the theater.Daily Star
Hassan Haydar Al-Hayat - 27/09/07//
It is said, in exaggeration, that every Lebanese who's born a Maronite immediately becomes a candidate for the presidency of the Republic. However, the one who most represents this presidential dream today is, without rival, MP Michel Aoun. His desire for the seat in Baabda has gone as far as to create and borrow expressions and formulas (that none of his presumed competitors has used) for "ruling" a country whose anchoring is not fixed and is not easy to steer.
The "ruling" in question is derived from "wilayat al-faqih" (the rule of the cleric: Khomeini's theory of religious rule), since Aoun has become closer to his ally Hizbullah than he is to the public that looked hopefully to the future upon his return from exile. Instead, the Christians are leaving more and are more profoundly divided, the political and economic situation in the country is worse, and the solutions Aoun's proposing, in which he puts himself forward as the central part of the puzzle, have only seen him reap the wind.
Deciding matters of religious law, or fiqh, shows up on the tongue of the retired general at every occasion. The most recent was of course the parliamentary session to elect a president, which did not see a quorum. When the majority insisted on its constitutional right to elect a new president on the basis of a 50% plus one quorum, Aoun called it "a coup d'Etat" and promised that "all means of suppressing this coup will be 'halal'," or religiously permitted. This is the logical extension of the phrase "unpolluted money," which Aoun's ally uses to explain what it gets in the way of Iranian financing.
On this same occasion, Aoun adopted the policy of accusing others of treason, which the party and its like, those who have been inspired by the near-by Baathist school, have been keen to use. Aoun believed that electing a president from the majority with an absolute majority "would be like a second July war against the resistance, but in a Lebanese context this time." Just as Hizbullah did after last year's war, and like Damascus did when it considered the parliamentary majority "an Israeli product," Aoun hung on the Israeli "rack" everyone with whom he disagrees, those who don't follow his policies and positions, and those who don't believe in him as the sole candidate for the presidency.
He quickly issued a "fatwa" saying that "no one can become the president of the Republic who is hostile to Hizbullah," i.e. placing the presidency that he aspires to, using all possible means, in the hands of his ally and under its conditions, perhaps in an attempt to convince his ally that he will not abandon it and signal his readiness to accept all of its conditions, after talk of a consensus president means that he will be ignored and his opportunities to become president will dissipate.
If the electoral session that didn't convene indicated the possibility of beginning of dialogue or an understanding between the pro-government and opposition camps, then Aoun was the most important absentee. In fact, his allies behaved as if he was a mere appendage of them, nothing more. The two-thirds quorum, which the opposition continues to advocate, can be secured by the attendance of the Shiite MPs, if an agreement is reached with the majority, and there would be no need for Aoun, his deputies or his opinion about the next president. His participation in any understanding would only be pro forma. Aoun's public will discover that he has dragged himself and them into a mistaken political formula, one that not only increases Christian division but also marginalizes the role of those in whose name he spoke; this formula has excluded them position of influence and decision-making. He has given them a regional formula that does not suit their weight, does not give them a role and does not classify them as its local proxy.
Due to his strong identification with Hizbullah, Aoun only needs to disappear for a period of time. Perhaps after that he might appear as a "president
Hezbollah vows retaliation for any future attack on Syria
Friday September 28, 2007 10:24 by John Smith - IMEMC & agencies johnsmithimemc at gmail dot com
A senior leader of the Hezbollah organization on Friday warned Israel against any future attack on Syria, stating that the organization would immediately retaliate in the event of such an operation. Speaking to an Israeli newspaper, Dr. Ahmad Malli, a senior member of the organization, warned Israel against an attack on Syria, noting that Hezbollah would retaliate with all their might to any future aggression. "The Zionist entity knows more than anyone that the price of such adventurousness would be heavy, and the Israelis know the price more than anyone," Malli stated. The Hezbollah movement and the Israeli administration last entered into armed conflict in the Lebanon war of 2006, an encounter in which the majority claim that Hezbollah triumphed.
Jibril: Israel will attack Syria soon
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Israel has already made a decision to attack Syria and was just mulling where to land its first strike, Ahmad Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed in an interview published Friday by Arabic paper Al Hadat. Jibril estimated that Israeli action, several weeks after an alleged IAF foray into Syria on September 6 would likely be a wide-scale operation, and would probably be answered with attacks by Iran, Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Palestinians of Syria.
"I believe Israel has prepared all likely scenarios for war with Syria, but they are still considering where they would land the first strike, which will come very soon," Jibril said. "They are weighing whether to attack on one front or on multiple fronts. "There is an American Israeli plan, backed by silent agreement from the Arab world, to change the balance of power in the Middle East," he added. The PFLP leader said also that Israel was wary of a "domino effect" that would drag other countries into the conflict. "The Israelis have not formed a final estimate regarding the possibility of Iranian interference in case they would attack Syria. Secondly, the Lebanese resistance, led by Hizbullah's Islamic resistance, will intervene and strike the Zionist home front with missiles," he said. "The Syrian brothers will not be afraid to protect their land and will continue the war with the Zionist enemy, and we, the Palestinians in Syria, will not sit idly - we will be in the front lines," Jibril added. However, despite Jibril's claim that "Hizbullah would also participate," officials in the organization hinted that they would not interfere in a future conflict. Two weeks ago, Sheikh Na'im Kassem, Deputy Secretary General of Hizbullah and Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's second in command, said that Israeli estimates that the group would try to take revenge on Syria's behalf were no more that "journalistic assessments based on insufficient evidence."
Resolution on Lebanon Passed by U.S. House
U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman has led the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a resolution calling for strong U.S. support for Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government. Ackerman, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, warned the House that "Lebanon is being bullied by Iran, Syria and their proxies, Hizbullah, Amal and Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement."
Citing the campaign of assassinations, bombings, weapons smuggling and the instigation of a Jihadi insurgency, Ackerman accused Damascus and Tehran of destabilizing Lebanon in order to pursue their own national interests. "Now is the time for Congress to send a strong message of support for the democratically elected and fully legitimate government in Lebanon" Ackerman said. "Time is short. The Syrian-backed campaign of murder is creeping ever closer to its goal of destroying the majority of the Lebanese Parliament, bringing down the government of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, and again imposing a pro-Syrian president on Lebanon."
"The current Lebanese government, which is under siege, is both legitimate and representative of the majority of Lebanese. The attempts to undermine it are not some kind of retaliation. Lebanon's government is being systematically attacked only because it is unwilling to subordinate its authority and Lebanon's sovereignty to external and extra-legal demands," Ackerman added. The Resolution condemns "Syria and Iran for providing weapons to Lebanese militias," particularly to Hizbullah, and Palestinian factions in Lebanon in clear contravention of Security Council resolutions, and endorses "prompt action" by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon established by the Security Council to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. The resolution also pledges continued U.S. material support to help preserve and strengthen Lebanese sovereignty and independence. Beirut, 28 Sep 07, 09:25
Berri Blasts as 'Meddling' U.N. Call for Timely Presidential Elections
The United Nations Security Council called for Lebanon to hold presidential elections as scheduled on October 23, but House Speaker Nabih Berri quickly blasted the world body for "meddling" in Lebanese affairs. The 15-member council "called for the holding of a free and fair presidential election in conformity with the Lebanese constitutional norms and schedules and without any foreign interference," it said in a statement released on Thursday. The top U.N. body further called for the election to be held in "an atmosphere free of violence, fear and intimidation, in particular against the representatives of the Lebanese people and institutions." Lebanon's parliament on Tuesday adjourned until October 23 a crucial session to elect a new president for lack of a quorum and to allow more time for lawmakers to reach agreement on a consensus candidate. But fears are running high that the deadlock over the presidency could lead to two rival governments, a grim reminder of the final years of the 1975-1990 civil war when two competing administrations battled it out. The Security Council "took note of the decision to convene the next session of the Lebanese Parliament on 23 October and looked forward for the parliament to proceed as appropriate to the election of the president," it added.
Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League had called earlier Thursday for the election to be held within the timeframe set out by the constitution.
In a statement published by Lebanese dailies on Friday, Berri rejected the U.N. statement and a similar one by the U.S. House of Representatives.
"With all due respect, it is not the business of the Security Council to interfere in what is the business of the Lebanese parliament," Berri said in a statement published by Lebanese dailies on Friday. "The more people are imposed upon, the more they and the Security Council just get exhausted."
The four-week delay in electing a new president was seen by both the government and opposition as a last chance to prevent an escalation of the political crisis in Beirut. A two-thirds majority of the 127-strong parliament is required for a candidate to be elected by parliament in a first round of voting to replace the current pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose terms ends in November. In the event of a second round, a simple majority suffices.
Most of the 58 MPs from the Hizbullah-led opposition boycotted Tuesday's session on the grounds that the feuding political parties had failed to agree on a consensus candidate to replace Lahoud. MPs from the ruling majority have made clear they plan to go ahead with a vote when lawmakers reconvene in October even if no agreement has been struck. Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government has been paralyzed since opposition forces withdrew their six ministers from the cabinet in November 2006 in a bid to gain more representation in cabinet. Tuesday's session came in a tense atmosphere after the assassination last week of MP Antoine Ghanem from the ruling coalition, the sixth deputy from the anti-Syrian camp killed since 2005.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 28 Sep 07, 08:15
Berri Sets Up Committees to Pursue Contacts with March 14
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who has been leading an effort to resolve the differences between the feuding Lebanese camps, has set up committees to pursue contacts with the majority March 14 Forces. Berri told the daily As Safir that the committees will start their task without delay by getting in touch with Druze chief Walid Jumblat and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. He said members of his own parliamentary bloc will be in charge of maintaining constant contact with the Hizbullah-led opposition to update them on outcome of the talks. Berri also reiterated his adherence to the specific qualities of the new President as agreed upon by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah. Beirut, 28 Sep 07, 11:56
Preparations Underway For Hariri-Aoun Meeting
Preparations were underway for a meeting between MP Saad Hariri and leader of the Free Patriotic Movement Gen. Michel Aoun, Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat uncovered. Fatfat told the Voice of Lebanon radio station that Hariri was negotiating with the Hizbullah-led opposition camp on behalf of the majority March 14 Forces. He said talks so far conducted by Hariri focused on evaluating remarks by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on the qualities of the next president. Fatfat also revealed that March 14 was "looking for a compromise."He stressed that the majority was open for consensus on "clear political grounds." Beirut, 28 Sep 07, 10:39
U.S. to Give $5 Million to Hariri Tribunal
The United States will contribute five million dollars to the U.N.-backed international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Zalmay Khalilzad said Washington was providing the funding to help start up the tribunal "to reflect our commitment to the process of accountability for political murders, assassinations that have taken place in Lebanon." Fifty-one percent of the expenses of the tribunal are to be borne by voluntary contributions from U.N. member states and 49 percent by the Lebanese government. "It is very important that those who have been responsible for those crimes be brought to justice, that there is no impunity for political assassinations," Khalilzad added. Describing political assassinations as "a threat to international peace and security," the U.S. envoy said that every effort had to be made to bring those responsible to justice in order to ensure accountability "but also to deter future crimes."
The court, which is to be based in the Netherlands, will try suspects in the assassination of Hariri, a popular five-time prime minister who was killed along with 22 others in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005. An initial U.N. inquiry implicated Damascus and its allies in Lebanon, where four pro-Syrian security chiefs were arrested in late 2005. But Syria has vehemently denied any involvement. The court also has jurisdiction over attacks against other anti-Syrian Lebanese figures carried out between October 2004 and December 2005 if they are linked to the February 2005 murder of Hariri.(AFP)
Beirut, 28 Sep 07, 06:19
Hariri Denies Differences with Geagea, Jumblat, Says Problem 'Rests with Others'
Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader and MP Saad Hariri on Thursday denied there were any differences between him and his allies --Druze chief Walid Jumblat and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea -- assuring that "diversity of viewpoints rests with others." After an unscheduled meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Hariri assured the Lebanese that they will have a "strong president" before Nov. 24. Responding to a question, Hariri said that "we did not go through names. We reviewed qualities of a president for the republic.""We want a strong president familiar with the political situation," Hariri said from Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite church. Asked to comment on a call by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun for dialogue on the presidential election, Hariri said: "We are not against dialogue with any of the political parties. We need dialogue … This is our national duty." He cautioned that any MP who boycotts the next presidential election session "would be responsible for the resulting vacuum." "All the people should know how serious political vacuum is," Hariri said.
Hariri went straight from Bkirki to Meerab where he held a lengthy meeting with Geagea. At a joint press conference at the end of the talks, Hariri said the feuding Lebanese camps "ought to start dialogue, otherwise how do we elect a president?""We are our going to reach consensus. We are moving toward consensus," Hariri stressed. Geagea, in turn, said: "Our utmost desire is to be able together with our brethren in March 8 (alliance) to reach consensus."
"This is going to be the starting point in our negotiations," Geagea said.He stressed that March 14 advocates a president who is committed to the promotion of democracy and good political governance, in addition to being an independent decision maker. Beirut, 27 Sep 07, 17:29
Arabs-Europeans Outraged at Syria, Support Lebanon's Consensus March
Arabs and Europeans denounced Syria's alleged meddling in Lebanon's affairs and declared support for a consensus approach to select a new head of state for the deeply divided nation. A few hours after canceling a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem to protest the killing of anti-Syrian MP Antoine Ghanem, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner discussed the Lebanon situation at the United Nations Tuesday with his Saudi and Egyptian counterparts, Prince Saud al-Faisal and Ahmed Abul Gheit, respectively. Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa also took part in the meeting, according to the daily an-Nahar.
Arab Foreign Ministers also held a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly deliberations in New York and issued a statement denouncing political assassinations in Lebanon and calling for the holding of Presidential elections without foreign interference, the newspaper reported.
The ministers, in a statement, said they deliberated the "Lebanon developments and condemned the acts of political assassinations that have targeted a number of political figures, intellectuals and journalists. The last of whom was MP Antoine Ghanem" by a powerful car bomb blast in Beirut's eastern suburb of Sin el-Fil on Sept. 19. Such attempts, the statement added, aim at "destabilizing Lebanon and blocking the presidential elections."The ministers also called The "Lebanese political factions to maintain national dialogue with the aim of achieving the proper atmosphere for successful presidential elections in line with the constitution and the constitutional schedule and without foreign influence."The ministers, furthermore, asked Moussa to "proceed with his efforts and contacts with all the concerned parties to help the Lebanese" hold presidential elections on time.
Kouchner's meeting with his Saudi and Egyptian counterparts and Moussa's participation in the discussion came a few hours after the French foreign minister said he cancelled a meeting with Muallem because of the Ghanem assassination. Kouchner said the meeting with Muallem was cancelled because he was "shocked" by Ghanem's assassination. "I was extremely shocked by this latest assassination ... I felt that I should not meet my counterpart as had been planned," he told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session. Syria last Saturday rejected as "baseless and without proof" accusations by Lebanon's ruling coalition that Damascus was behind the Ghanem's killing. Ghanem was the eighth Damascus critic to be killed in Lebanon since the February 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri, and the fourth anti-Syrian MP killed since the 2005 elections. "This is an intolerable situation, and we are trying not to tolerate it," Kouchner said.
"The least we can do is to not pretend that he and four other people were not assassinated in the same attack," he said. Asked if he held Syria responsible for the attack, Kouchner responded: "I did not say that. I think they are very influential in the region."(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 27 Sep 07, 08:24
Berri: Electing a President Folds 1559
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted Thursday as saying that electing a new president on a consensus base means that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 "is over and folded." The newspaper as-Safir quoted Berri, who also heads the Shiite AMAL Movement, as saying that talks he has held with MP Saad Hariri were "very good and Sheik Saad Hariri has a very serious and honest will to achieve consensus."
"Succeeding in achieving presidential elections means that resolution 1559 has been folded (regarding the presidency and the withdrawal of the Syrian army) because the rest is in 1701," Berri was quoted as saying. Resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004, called for the withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanon, the holding of presidential elections without foreign intervention and the disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias deployed in Lebanon.
Lebanon's Syrian-dominated Parliament amended the constitution and extended President Emile Lahoud's term for three years one day after 1559 was adopted in an apparent defiance of the Security Council. However, Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon in April 2005, less than two months after the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri by a powerful explosion in Beirut. The issue of disbanding Hizbullah's armed wing as well as Palestinian bases in Lebanon remains unresolved, however.
Resolution 1701, which ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah in the summer of 2006, reactivated resolution 1559 and banned the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah and other factions loyal to the Damascus regime in Lebanon. Hizbullah, which leads the opposition, has called for the election of a president who rejects resolution 1559. Beirut, 27 Sep 07, 12:29
Spectre of partition
By: Lucy Fielder - Copyright Al-Ahram
The battle over who will be Lebanon's next president is the latest front line in the proxy war being fought by regional and international powers, writes Lucy Fielder from Beirut The direction outside powers want Lebanon's presidential elections to take will largely determine whether the tiny, conflict ridden country moves towards a new dispensation or civil war, believe analysts. Opposition MPs stayed late for Tuesday's parliamentary session in a successful bid to prevent a vote taking place prior to the emergence of a compromise candidate. Speaker Nabih Berri's announcement that the next attempt to choose a president will take place on 23 October now gives Lebanon some breathing space in which a candidate could emerge and hopefully end the political crisis sparked when President Emile Lahoud's term was extended three years ago through a Syrian-influenced constitutional amendment.
With Washington and Saudi Arabia backing the Lebanese government, and Iran and Syria backing Hizbullah's opposition alliance, international stakes are high. If the US decides to use the presidential elections to pressure Iran, undermine Syria and help its ally Israel by pushing for Hizbullah's disarmament, Lebanon's anti-Syrian bloc will be encouraged to elect a candidate, perhaps by a simple majority, committed to disarming Hizbullah. Their choice would be unacceptable to the opposition who could respond by appointing a rival, seeing Lebanon slide further towards conflict.
"Iran and Saudi Arabia are playing a complicated game," says Charles Harb, a social psychologist and political analyst at the American University of Beirut. "Iran wants to protect Hizbullah. The Americans are not voicing clearly what they want and have a [Middle East] peace conference coming up."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's suggestion that the world must prepare for war with Iran underlines how seriously possible military strikes against Tehran are being taken in European capitals. Nor is it clear yet if Syria will be included in the US-brokered Middle East conference scheduled for November, or whether the conference will engender a more conciliatory atmosphere between Damascus and Washington, or up the confrontational stakes. This month's Israeli strike on unknown targets in northern Syria suggests the latter.
Hizbullah has made clear its weapons are a red line. And while the opposition's presidential candidate currently is Christian leader Michel Aoun, the Shia party would probably accept a consensus candidate such as army chief Michel Suleiman providing its holding of weapons is guaranteed.
Before settling on a president, says one senior opposition source, Lebanon's competing factions must first agree on basic policy orientation, which means reaching agreement on four main issues: power-sharing and regaining the fragile balance between Lebanon's main sects; the nature of relations with Syria; Hizbullah's arms, and the Palestinian presence in Lebanon.
The assassination last week of MP Antoine Ghanem, the sixth anti-Syrian figure to be killed since Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri was murdered in February 2005, could still encourage the 14 March anti-Syrian bloc to push ahead with a simple majority, half-plus-one, vote. The killing, they claim, was engineered by Damascus in an attempt to reduce the 14 March's majority in parliament -- they now have 68 out of 128 MPs -- and prevent them electing a president from their ranks.
Harb points out that following the announcement by four pro-government MPs that they would not participate in a simple majority vote, that option was off the table before Ghanem's death.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora has asked the United Nations to add Ghanem's killing to the caseload of the international tribunal investigating Al-Hariri's death, and the pro-government An-Nahar newspaper has reported that the UN is circulating a draft resolution calling for free and fair elections and reiterating support for resolutions 1559 and 1701, which call for the disarmament of Hizbullah.
The left-leaning pan-Arab Al-Akhbar also reported last week that the Security Council might be asked to endorse a simple majority election, a step that would be seen as openly provocative by the opposition.
"The assassination is being used to promote greater internationalisation of Lebanon's problems and more international interference," the opposition source said. "There's even talk of holding the presidential vote outside Lebanon, though I don't know if they'll go that far."
On the eve of the assassination 14 March leader Saad Al-Hariri and his Saudi Arabian backers had been close to accepting Berri's proposal to ease the crisis, the source said. The space given by Tuesday's deferral still leaves room for compromise. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told Al-Arabiya television he hopes a consensus candidate will emerge.
But a unilateral push remains possible, as do more assassinations and other violence aimed at reinforcing hardline positions. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has predicted four more anti-Syrian MPs will be targeted, despite the fact that most have set up camp in the luxury Phoenicia hotel under high security.
Ibrahim Al-Amine wrote in the pro-opposition daily Al-Akhbar that the opposition was considering its options should a simple majority vote be called. They include reviving the popular protest beyond the camp that has been occupying two Downtown squares since last December and electing an alternative president.
The latter, says Karim Makdisi, associate professor of international relations at the American University of Beirut, would be a disaster: allowing Lebanon to fester under two ineffective and opposed governments would encourage the army to split, and could even result in the partition of the country.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
Votes and assassinations in Lebanon
By Jim Muir
BBC News, Beirut
The Lebanese parliament failed to elect a new president again this week - and after nearly a year of political deadlock, the deadline for a handover of presidential power is fast approaching.
The Lebanese parliament building is surrounded by tight security
By Lebanese standards, this presidential election has been relatively normal. So far, that is, because there is still a very long way to go, and plenty of potential for it to go spectacularly wrong.
At least it is being held - again, so far - where it should be: in the parliamentary chamber in downtown Beirut.
That is still something of a novelty in recent decades.
It is hard to forget my introduction to Lebanese presidential elections, way back in May 1976.
The first phase of the civil war was in full swing. The downtown area where parliament was, had been smashed and paralysed by the fighting. The battlefront now ran right through that area, dividing mainly Christian east Beirut, from the mainly Muslim west.
So the MPs had to meet at the Villa Mansour, a gracious residence taken over as a temporary refuge.
We had to throw ourselves down behind walls for shelter, as mortars suddenly came crashing down
Its appeal was that it lay close to one of the main crossing-points on the confrontation line, near the national museum, so people could get to it from both sides.
A narrow quorum duly turned up. But somebody did not like what was going on.
Hanging around outside, we had to throw ourselves down behind walls for shelter, as mortars suddenly came crashing down into the immediate area, scattering dust and fragments. There must have been a message there.
But it did not make much difference. Elias Sarkis, the former governor of the central bank, was duly elected, to the din of exploding shells.
Six years on, and it was time for Mr Sarkis to stand down. The situation had changed radically.
Israel had invaded, and was even besieging west Beirut. This time, the election was held in an army barracks in east Beirut, with Israeli troops holding the ring.
Bashir Gemayel was assassinated before he could take office The only candidate was the feisty young Christian militia leader, Bashir Gemayel, who had thrown in his lot with the Israelis.
MPs were rounded up at gunpoint and herded in to make up the quorum.
I remember hearing gunfire outside as the voting went ahead.
Bashir Gemayel was duly elected. But somebody did not like that, either.
Just three weeks later, before he could take office, he was crushed to death in the ruins of his Phalangist Party headquarters, demolished by a massive explosion.
The most immediate consequence, just a few days later, was the massacre by Christian militiamen of hundreds of Palestinian refugees at the camps of Sabra and Shatila.
Bashir's brother Amin - less controversial and more conciliatory - was elected relatively smoothly, to take his place.
Peace agreement Fast forward again.
It is 1989, and Lebanon is divided.
There are two prime ministers and no president, because when Amin Gemayel had to stand down a year earlier, it proved impossible to elect a successor.
The election of Elias Hrawi ushered in a decade when most of Lebanon fell quietly under Syrian sway
But under Arab pressure, a peace agreement is finally reached at Taif, in Saudi Arabia, and the way was clear for another election.
And what a strange one that was. Because Beirut was still very unsafe, MPs and journalists were bundled into special planes and flown up to an abandoned air strip in the far north of the country.
There, this time with no violence in the background, Rene Muawwad was duly elected. But once again, somebody did not like that either.
Just 17 days later, he too was blown up in a huge car bomb explosion back in Beirut.
And another exceptional election followed two days later.
This time it was held under tight security at a hotel in the town of Shtaura, in east Lebanon, near the border with Syria.
The election of Elias Hrawi ushered in a decade when most of Lebanon fell quietly under Syrian sway. It allowed a period of intense reconstruction, although many underlying problems remained unresolved.
The only normal election in recent times - in 1998 - saw the current, pro-Syrian incumbent, Emile Lahoud, voted in with near unanimity. This included many who have since turned against him and the Syrians.
For things have changed, again.
The gulf between the Western-backed, anti-Syrian government and the opposition, supported by Syria and Iran, is enormous
Syria was obliged to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in 2005, under international pressure and a wave of Lebanese outrage following the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.
But Syria's power and influence here simply cannot be ignored.
With their ally Iran, and through Lebanese factions such as Hezbollah and its allies, the Syrians have enormous assets. As a result, the political process is deadlocked.
'Turmoil and tension'
Until the meeting on Tuesday, parliament had not convened for nearly a year.
The prime minister has to reach his office through a back entrance, since the government building is besieged by Hezbollah tents.
That deadlock is now focused on how to replace the Syrian-backed president when his term expires in November.
It is a deadline that will not go away. The gulf between the Western-backed, anti-Syrian government and the opposition, supported by Syria and Iran, is enormous.
And their outside patrons have the whole region in the grip of turmoil and tension, with fears of worse to come, especially between the US and Iran.
So anything is possible in the coming weeks here. Dialogue and agreement, division, war.
If the Lebanese are very lucky, this could turn out to be a normal election.
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Thursday 27 September 2007 at 1100 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.