Lebanese President Lahoud Steps Down Without Successor
The term of Lebanon's president has ended with no elected successor and a bitter dispute over who is in power. Before pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud left the presidential palace at midnight (2200 GMT) he issued an order that the army should take over control. ...
The US has urged all parties to remain calm and said that under the constitution the Lebanese cabinet should "temporarily assume executive powers and responsibilities until a new president is elected". ...
The tension was palpable on the streets as the crisis over electing the president came to a head, with the army deployed in force and schools closed.
The AP adds that the State Department has issued the necessary warnings to its personnel:
"The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens who live, work or are traveling in Lebanon to exercise responsible security practices." The embassy began restricting the movements of U.S. diplomats in Lebanon on Nov. 20, limiting their travel in downtown Beirut near the parliament building and other government offices and banned all but essential travel to Beirut International Airport until Monday.
Apparently, one of the drivers of this Lebanese domestic political standoff is being a struggle between outside powers over the control of the Lebanese government. The AP article continues:
The anti-Syria camp has sought to capture the presidency to seal the end of Syria dominance of Lebanon, which lasted for 29 years until international pressure and mass protests forced Damascus to withdraw Syrian troops in 2005. Hezbollah, which is an ally of Syria and Iran, and its opposition allies have been able to stymie the government's hopes by boycotting parliament, as they did Friday afternoon when the majority tried to convene a session to vote before Lahoud left office.
Anthony Shadid at the Washington Post has commentary.
This round of Lebanon's crisis is ostensibly over parliament's choice of a successor to Lahoud. But its roots go far deeper. On one side is a coalition around the American-backed government that claims legitimacy from a series of demonstrations that culminated March 14, 2005, and led to the end of Syria's 29-year military presence in the country. On the other is an alliance between Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group supported by Iran and Syria, and Christian followers of Michel Aoun, a former general.
Unlike Lebanon's civil war, often characterized as a Christian-Muslim conflict, this crisis has mobilized the country's Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities against each other, with Christians divided between the two camps.