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November 28, 2007
Possible breakthrough in Lebanese Political Stalemate
Lebanon may have a new president by the weekend and with him, a political breakthrough in the year long cabinet crisis.
The majority coalition governing Lebanon, the March 14th forces, have dropped their opposition to a constitutional amendment that would allow a serving army commander to assume the office of president, clearing the way for a compromise candidate acceptable to all sides; Lebanon's sphinx like Commanding General Michel Suleiman:
Suleiman is seen as a uniting figure, who both the US-backed majority in Lebanon and the pro-Syrian opposition - as well as outside players - can back. The possible election of Suleiman would solve a lot of problems and create a few others - not least is the danger that there could be a military coup under the right cicumstances. And although the General has the respect of both sides, he is not the most trusted of souls. He has tried to play both ends against the middle for so long that no one is sure where exactly he will come down on some crucial questions regarding election law reform, the International Tribunal, and other issues the government must face in the next few months.
All sides appear to view him, at least for now, as a relatively neutral player who can guarantee that no side in Lebanon's fractured politics dominates the other. Houry, a legislator with the Future Movement of Saad Hariri, said the bloc had reversed its previous stand against amending the constitution to elect a sitting army commander.
"We declare our acceptance to amend the constitution in order to reach consensus on the name of the army commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman," he said. Hariri is effectively the leader of Lebanon's parliamentary majority, and his support is tantamount to the majority's acceptance.
Houry's statement described Suleiman as "symbol of the unity of the military establishment which has given martyrs and blood in defense of the nation against the enemy and against those who threatened civil peace."
Suleiman is also respected by Hizbullah, which is leading the opposition, suggesting that after months of being unable to elect a new leader, the republic may once more have a president.
But he is considered an honorable man who may be able to at least partially bridge the gap between the majority and the oppositon - if there is a desire among the principles for that to occur.
That will be the true test of his leadership if the details about amending the constitution to allow his election can be ironed out.