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Lebanese speaker "stunned" by French FM remarks
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20:37, April 09, 2008

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Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was "stunned" by the comment of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner who accused him of closing down the parliament and of "lacking freedom to move," Al-Akhbar daily reported on Wednesday.

Berri, a main leader of Lebanese opposition bloc, is carrying out Arab and international contacts to assure a new round of dialogue among Lebanese rival groups.

"Why should national dialogue take place outside parliament, that is because Berri lacks freedom of movement," Kouchner told reporters in a press conference in Paris on Tuesday.

However, French diplomatic sources said Tuesday that Kouchner's remarks were taken "out of context."

Meanwhile, Berri was quoted by the daily as saying that if an agreement was reached, he will call immediately for dialogue starting April 18, before a scheduled session to elect a new president on April 22.

Lebanese Parliament has been out of session since October 2007.Berri said that he can not call parliament to session in the presence of an illegitimate government, while the ruling coalition accuses him of hijacking the legislative authority.

Lebanon is currently facing the most serious political deadlock since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. For the first time in its history, the presidential seat has been vacant since Nov. 24, 2007 when former President Emile Lahoud stepped down.

A long-awaited parliamentary session to elect a new president has been postponed for the 17 times to April 22.

The presidency deadlock deepened the Lebanese political crisis as fears are mounting that failure in reaching a deal on the presidential candidate could result in more violence in the country.

Source: Xinhua



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