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Lebanese Lawmakers Extend Leader's Term

Amendment giving the president three more years in office, despite U.N. objections, is seen as a concession to Syria.

September 04, 2004|From Associated Press

BEIRUT — Parliament amended Lebanon's Constitution on Friday to extend pro- Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term, ignoring United Nations calls to hold an election.

The result, passed by a 125-to-29 vote, had been expected. Neighboring Syria, the power broker in Lebanon, backed Lahoud's bid to extend his six-year term, which would have expired Nov. 24, by three years.

In Washington, the State Department accused Syria of threatening members of Lebanon's parliament to force passage of the legislation.

"We are gravely concerned that the will of the Lebanese people has been circumvented," spokesman Tom Casey said. Syria and its agents threatened the legislators, Casey said, "making this a crude mockery of democratic principles."

Late Thursday, a divided U.N. Security Council approved a resolution aimed at pressuring Lebanon to reject a second term for Lahoud and calling for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces -- an indirect reference to Syrian troops.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 05, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Lebanon vote -- An article in Saturday's Section A about Lebanon's parliament voting to extend the term of office of the nation's president said the measure passed by a 125-to-29 vote. The vote was 96 to 29.

Legislator Mohammed Raad, leader of the nine-member Hezbollah bloc, the guerrilla group the United States considers a terrorist organization, said the parliament vote was "to support Lahoud and to reject the policies of the American administration in the region."

Before the vote, opponents denounced the process and criticized Syrian interference.

"I reject the proposed amendment. It has been proven to us that the extension decision had been taken in Syria and by the Syrian regime," presidential candidate Butros Harb told the legislature.

Syria sent troops to Lebanon in 1976 to help quell a civil war that raged for 14 more years. The troops remain and, over the years, Syria has become Lebanon's supreme power.

Lebanon's government repeatedly has called the troops a stabilizing factor.

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