BEIRUT (AFP-25/5/2008) – The Lebanese parliament convenes on Sunday to elect army chief Michel Sleiman as president in a first step towards defusing an often deadly 18-month standoff between feuding political factions.
The parliamentary session is expected to be attended by several foreign dignitaries, including Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar.
Last Wednesday, the rivals finally agreed to elect Sleiman and form a national unity government, in which the opposition has veto power, after five days of intense talks brokered by the Arab League in the Qatari capital.
The Doha talks came after 65 people were killed in fierce sectarian battles earlier this month between supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition and pro-government forces.
H.E. the foreign minister of Qatar, SH Hamad Ben Jassem Ben Jabor al-Thani who chaired the Arab League mission that brokered the deal between Lebanon’s rival factions last Wednesday is already in the Lebanese capital on the historic occasion.
The foreign ministers of Syria, Iran and France are also among the 200 dignitaries invited to witness the event.
A US delegation will be headed by Representative Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat of Lebanese origin.
Foreign ministers of France, Bernard Kouchner, Italy, Franco Frattini, Spain Miguel Angel Moratinos and EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana are also attending.
Earlier in the week Suleiman told Lebanese media that it would be impossible to "save the country on my own".
"This mission requires the efforts of all. Security is not achieved by force but by joint political will."
The presidency was left vacant in November, when Emile Lahoud, who had also been the army chief, stepped down at the end of his term with no elected successor because of political disputes.