09/04/2004, 00.00
lebanon - syria
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Lebanese MPs give Lahoud 3 more years

Amendment passes despite objections from the UN and the Maronite Church.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - With 96 votes in favour, 29 votes against and three absentees, the Lebanese Parliament amended the Constitution Friday night, allowing Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud to remain in power for three more years. The amendment of Article 49 of the Constitution, which will extend Lahoud's term, was passed amid international and local objections.

"Today is a black day in Lebanese history," said Zghorta MP Nayla Mouawad - herself a former candidate for the presidency - as she described Parliament's compliance with the Syrian-orchestrated amendment, which took place less than 24 hours after the UN Security Council passed a resolution urging respect for the Lebanese Constitution and calling for a halt to foreign interference.  "This was a revolt against the Constitution, and not even a white revolution, since many MPs received threats," Mouawad charged.

Lahoud, whose term was to end in November, will remain president until November 2007. Until then, the country will not be able to hold a presidential ballot. Even MPs who voted for the amendment defined the parliamentary session "a sad masquerade."

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and the Maronite Bishops Council have denounced many times the "plot" to keep the Syrian-backed president through a constitutional change, seen as a further attack to Lebanese sovereignty.

On Thursday 3 September, The UN Security Council narrowly approved a U.S.-French resolution asking for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces - an indirect reference to 17.000 Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon. The resolution also aimed at putting pressure on Lebanon to reject a second term for president Emile Lahoud.

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