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A grenade explosion set a parked car belonging to the wife of the assistant military prosecutor on fire and damaged several other vehicles in Beirut early Monday but caused no injuries, police said.
The latest violence came a day after a parliamentary session to elect a new president was delayed after the Arab League secretary-general failed to break a presidential deadlock after talks with Lebanon’s feuding factions and Syrian officials.
Lebanon has been hit by a series of explosions in nearly three years of political turmoil triggered by the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. The last explosion on January 15 targeted a US Embassy SUV, killing three passersby and wounding 26 others on a north Beirut highway. The armor-plated vehicle was damaged and its Lebanese driver was lightly hurt.
The early Monday explosion was caused by a grenade that was thrown by unknown assailants on a street in Moseitbeh, a Muslim residential neighborhood of Beirut.
Security officials as well as Lebanese television stations said the car that was gutted belonged to the wife of Judge Ahmed Oueidat, who is assistant to the military prosecutor. One of the damaged cars belonged to a relative of a Lebanese army general
who has been in detention since 2005 in Hariri’s assassination.
After the fire was extinguished, a police investigation was launched to determine whether the attack was intended against the prosecutor’s family or that of Maj. Gen. Mustafa Hamdan, former head of Lebanon’s Presidential Guards Brigade. The pro-Syrian general is in jail along with three other pro-Syrian security officers on the recommendation of a UN investigation into the February 2005 suicide truck bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri.
The postponement of the parliamentary session scheduled for Monday was the latest in more than a dozen such delays since the sharply divided legislature first tried to select a new head of state in September.
It underlined continuing political differences in a fierce yearlong power struggle between the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the Syrian-backed opposition led by the militant Hezbollah group.
Lebanon has been without a president since pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud’s term ended on November 23.
The announcement Sunday by Speaker Nabih Berri to postpone the session until February 11 came shortly after he met with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who has been holding talks with rival factions since last week.
Moussa has been urging an Arab plan that calls for the election of army commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, as president, the formation of a national unity government and the adoption of a new electoral law. The plan was unanimously adopted by Arab foreign ministers in Cairo earlier this month.
Lawmakers on both sides have agreed to back Suleiman as a compromise candidate, but the parliament must first amend the constitution to allow a sitting military chief to become president.
This process has been complicated by the opposition’s demand for a new unity government that would give it veto power over major decisions. Opposition boycotts have thwarted attempts to choose a president by preventing a two-thirds quorum.
Berri said the delay would give the two sides more time to work out their differences ahead of the presidential vote.
Moussa has held five days of crisis talks, including a visit to neighboring Syria, but has failed so far to solve the political crisis – Lebanon’s worst since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
He said he will present a report on the outcome of his talks in Beirut and Damascus to the Arab foreign ministers, who are scheduled to meet in Cairo on January 27 to assess the situation before deciding on the next move. (AP)
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