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In Lebanon, a Post-Vote Olive Branch

September 05, 2004|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Lebanese President Emile Lahoud pledged Saturday to work with his opponents despite anger over the three-year extension of his term.

Parliament voted 96 to 29 Friday in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow Lahoud, whose term expires Nov. 24, to stay in power until 2007. The vote took place despite a U.N. Security Council resolution, directed at Syria, about foreign interference in Lebanon's electoral process. Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon for two decades, backed Lahoud's bid to extend his term.

Many Lebanese were angry that the constitution was amended but also upset that the Security Council -- led by the U.S. and France -- tried to interfere.

"Even the weather was black, like the depressed faces of the people," said a front-page editorial in the influential daily newspaper An Nahar, which carried an "honor roll" of the 29 deputies who voted against the extension.

"It was another Good Friday -- just as Christ was crucified on Good Friday, yesterday was a Good Friday on which democracy and the honor of the people were crucified."

A Christian opposition group, in a meeting Saturday, called for "rectifying the flagrant mistake" and a return to "logic and laws."

Qornet Shehwan, a mainly Maronite group opposing Syria's domination of its neighbor, said Lebanese deserved to run their own sovereign and independent country.

Lahoud, ignoring the international moves opposing the constitutional amendment, pledged to work with his opponents.

"We are on the doorstep of a new stage titled, 'Putting behind the past and opening up to the future,' bringing about an atmosphere of reconciliation and forgiveness among the Lebanese," said a statement issued by his office.

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