UN Council urges no interference in Lebanon vote

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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 (Reuters) The UN Security Council called today for Lebanon's presidential elections to be held on time and without foreign interference, despite the killing of a Lebanese parliamentarian this week.

Anti-Syrian Christian Phalange politician Antoine Ghanem and seven other people were killed by a car bomb in Beirut on Wednesday. Ghanem's allies were quick to blame Syria, but Damascus condemned the attack.

A statement agreed to by the Security Council's 15 members strongly condemned the ''terrorist attack'' and demanded ''an immediate end of the use of intimidation and violence against the representatives of the Lebanese people and institutions.'' ''On the eve of the crucial period of the presidential election,'' the statement said, ''any attempt to destabilize Lebanon, including through political assassination or other terrorist acts, should not impede or subvert the constitutional process in Lebanon.'' The statement said the Security Council reiterated ''its call for the holding of a free and fair presidential election in conformity with Lebanese constitutional norms and schedules and without any foreign interference, fully respecting the sovereignty of Lebanon.'' Parliament is due to meet on September 25 to elect the new president, but the session will not go ahead without a deal between the anti-Syrian governing coalition and opposition.

Lebanese commentators say the killing has set back efforts to reach a deal on a consensus candidate to replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term ends in November.

Ghanem's death cut the coalition to 68 in the 128-seat parliament -- only three above an absolute majority of 65, whittling away at its leverage in the election. Lebanon has asked the United Nations to help investigate the killing.

REUTERS AK BST0110

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