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Sun 27 Apr 2008 11:01 AM

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Latest presidential vote scheduled for May 13

Vote will be 19th time Lebanon's feuding political factions have tried to elect president.

A 19th attempt to elect a president for Lebanon has been scheduled for May 13, a spokesman for parliament speaker Nabih Berri said Saturday as the country remained mired in political deadlock.

A previous session, set for April 22, was postponed because of disagreement between the anti-Syrian majority, backed by the West and most Arab states, and the opposition which is supported by Iran and Syria.

RELATED: Lebanon postpones presidential vote again

"Nabih Berri has fixed a session for May 13, at midday," spokesman Ali Hamdan said.

Speaker and opposition leader Berri has called on Lebanon's rival factions to hold talks under his auspices on forming a national unity government and on a new electoral law.

The head of the parliamentary majority, Saad Hariri, said he was "optimistic concerning the election of a president on May 13", the state-run National News Agency reported.

Hariri also said he was in favour of a dialogue with the opposition.

"We were never against a dialogue... but if we participate in a round-table [discussion] it will be to elect a president," he said after meeting Maronite Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, from whose community presidents are drawn.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who is also a member of the ruling coalition, had said on Wednesday that dialogue was the only solution to Lebanon's political crisis.

Lebanon is gripped by deadlock with feuding political factions unable to agree a deal to elect a replacement to pro-Syrian former president Emile Lahoud, who stepped down in November at the end of his mandate.

The country is facing its worst political crisis since the end of its 1975-1990 civil war, pitting the anti-Syrian ruling coalition against the Hezbollah-led opposition.

The parliamentary majority is demanding the immediate and unconditional election to the presidency of consensus candidate and army chief Michel Sleiman.

A solution has yet to be found despite the efforts of Arab and international mediators, and the two sides remain at loggerheads.

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