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Lebanese parliament delays presidential vote again

Lebanon's parliament has put off its latest attempt to choose the country's next president as rival factions continue negotiations over a compromise candidate, the parliament's speaker said.

Lebanon's parliament has put off its latest attempt to choose the country's next president as rival factions continue negotiations over a compromise candidate, according to the parliament's Speaker.

Members of the Western-backed, anti-Syrian government were scheduled to meet Tuesday with the pro-Syrian opposition to try for a second time to choose a successor to Emile Lahoud after each side rejectedthe other's preferred candidate.

But parliament Speaker Nabih Berri decided to postpone the parliamentary session to elect the president until Nov. 12 in order to give the rival camps more time, said a statement issued by the parliament's secretariat general.

The pro-Syrian Lahoud, who is scheduled to step down on Nov. 24, has said he will appoint an interim administration led by the head of Lebanon's army if his successor is not agreed upon in time.

An opposition boycott prevented the previously scheduled election last month, which was preceded by the assassination of pro-government lawmaker Antoine Ghanem by a massive car bomb.

The latest postponement was harshly criticized by a hardline member of the anti-Syrian majority in parliament who accused the Hezbollah-led opposition and its Syrian backers of seeking to scuttle the election altogether.

"The postponement of the session is a clear violation of the constitution by the parliament Speaker … under the slogan of a consensus on a president," legislator Wael Abu Faour said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Angel Moratinos, by phone Monday that his country "supports all efforts … among the Lebanese people to elect a consensus president according to constitutional norms," Syria's official news agency reported.

Syria has denied any involvement in the car bombing of Ghanem in Beirut on Sept. 19, or in seven previous assassinations since 2005, including that of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Syria ended its nearly 30-year occupation of Lebanon in response to public outrage after Hariri's death. A government led by anti-Syrian politicians was then elected.

With files from the Associated Press