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Ban Ki-moon 'cautiously optimistic' about deadlock on Lebanese presidency

19 November 2007 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has just completed an international visit that included a stop in Lebanon, said today he was “cautiously optimistic” that the country’s political leaders could resolve their tense stand-off over the election of a new president.

Speaking to reporters at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said he was concerned that Lebanon’s leaders have not been able to agree so far on a consensus candidate for president. A new president is supposed to be elected before a deadline of 24 November.

But Mr. Ban said he “was more cautiously optimistic than I was a week ago, with all the international community’s strong support and encouragement, with strong commitment by Speaker [of the Parliament, Nabih] Berri and [the] MP Saad Hariri.”

During his brief visit to Lebanon, the Secretary-General held talks with a range of leaders, including Mr. Berri and Mr. Hariri.

“If these two leaders work together, I think that they can find common solutions which will be acceptable to all Lebanese people. This is my sincere hope. But I know that there are some other obstacles. My meetings with opposition leaders were not that encouraging but, at the same time, with all this negotiation and political compromise efforts going on, even though time is running out, I hope that we are able to see the Lebanese people agree on a presidential candidate.”

Mr. Ban also met Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir of the Maronite Church, as well as with other representatives of the country’s Christian community and of Hizbollah.

“I have urged them that, for the future of their nation, they should elect a president in accordance with their constitutional procedures within the framework by the deadline without outside interference and also on the basis of international legitimacy.”

He stressed that the UN would support any president elected on a “broad basis with strong commitment to international legitimacy.”

Mr. Ban described his overall international trip, which also took him to Antarctica, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Tunisia and Spain and was dominated by the issue of climate change, as “hectic but rewarding.”

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