By Ray Fleming
AS the key players in the Israeli-Palestinian game make their way to Annapolis, near Washington DC, for next Tuesday's meeting with President Bush, they will be looking anxiously over their shoulders to see whether Lebanon bursts into war again while they are trying to talk peace. Lebanon is in an exceptionally fragile state, not for the first time. For the past ten days the politicians there have been trying, without success, to elect a successor to Emile Lahoud as Lebanese President. His term of office came to an end at midnight on Friday and, in the absence of anyone to succeed him, he issued a statement saying that he had ordered all Lebanese security forces to be at the disposal of the army until a “legitimate government is formed.” Under the constitution, however, in the absence of a president, power falls to the government which is led by Fouad Siniora and supported by the United States. The departing president ignored this because he backs the Syrian-supported opposition which is boycotting the parliament and government. The result of these moves has been to create a political vacuum in Lebanon where there are always plenty of people waiting to take advantage of just such a situation, Hezbollah among them. Before he left the presidential office Emile Lahoud said that a “consensual president” should be found and elected, apparently ignoring the recent failure to do that. He then added, ominously: “If they do not elect a consensual president, we have men who can stand up.”


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