07/03/2007, 00.00
LEBANON
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MPs go abroad to protect majority in upcoming presidential elections

At least 20 MPs have left the country to maintain the ruling coalition’s 68-seat majority in the 128-member parliament. A Palestinian attempt to set up military to force Fatah al-Islam fighters out of the Nahr al-Bared camp fails.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon’s current situation continues to be bleak. At least 20 of the 68 members of parliament who belong to the governing anti-Syrian majority are abroad for security reasons and will come back only when the presidential election will be held. In northern Lebanon an attempt by Palestinians to organise a force to force the remaining Fatah al-Islam fighters out of the Nahr al-Bared camp failed because of Hamas opposition. The men have been held up for the past six weeks. Lebanese authorities announced that 300 men from the Internal Security Forces (ISF) have been deployed along the northern border with Syria.

Speaking to L’Orient Le Jour, majority lawmaker Samir Frangie said that the last meeting by the ‘March 14’ alliance, the day after the murder of Walid Eido, decided to call for by-elections to replace Eido and Pierre Gemayel, who was also killed in a bomb attack, and send abroad MPs from regions where their safety cannot be guaranteed.

The goal is protect the current parliamentary majority from threats until late September when Parliament should elect President Émile Lahoud’s successor.

After Eido’s murder, many from the majority camp had publicly stated their concern that the attacks (and the president’s refusal to organise by-elections) were part of a plan to deny the anti-Syrian coalition the majority it now has—68 out of 128.

A large number of lawmakers, at least 20, have gone abroad until the presidential election, MP Akram Shhayeb told AFP.

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