Iran deal may help Lebanon elect a president: official

The presidency has been vacant since Michel Suleiman’s term expired in May 2014

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The Iranian nuclear deal could help Lebanon overcome the obstacles that have for more than a year prevented the election of a president, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday.

The presidency has been vacant since Michel Suleiman’s term expired in May 2014. Filling it requires a deal between rival politicians who are aligned with competing regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“This agreement could help create the climate that would help remove the complications facing the election of a president of the republic,” Berri, an ally of Iran, was quoted as saying in a statement circulated by his office.

The president is elected by parliament and must be a Maronite Christian according to Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system. But Lebanese politicians, deeply divided over issues including the war in neighboring Syria, have been unable to reach the kind of deal needed to fill the post.

When the Lebanese presidency last fell vacant in 2007, it took a deal negotiated in Qatar to fill the position, but only after a political crisis had spilled into armed conflict.

Lebanon’s main Sunni party, the Future Movement led by former prime minister Saad al-Hariri, is backed by Saudi Arabia. Lebanon’s most powerful Shiite party, Hezbollah, is backed by Iran.

All of Lebanon’s main political groups are represented in a national unity government formed last year and headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, a Sunni.

Berri, a Shiite, said he expected the Iranian nuclear deal concluded on Tuesday to have “positive repercussions on the region, and to help realize a breakthrough in Lebanon.”

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