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US warns of unrest, urges calm amid political chaos in Lebanon
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    WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Friday warned of new unrest in Lebanon and urged all parties to remain calm after the country’s parliament was unable to elect a new president as required by the constitution.
    In a statement released just minutes after Lebanon’s outgoing pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud declared a state of emergency and ordered the army to take control, the State Department appealed for the Lebanese military and security services to uphold the rule of law and for political actors to engage in negotiations.
    However, it made no reference to Lahoud’s emergency declaration and said Washington understood that when his term expires at midnight Friday ‘‘the Lebanese cabinet will temporarily assume executive powers and responsibilities until a new president is elected by Lebanon’s Parliament.’’
    ‘‘This is the procedure stipulated by the Lebanese constitution, and will ensure that the government is able to continue conducting its business without interruption,’’ State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in the statement.
    ‘‘The United States Government commends Lebanon’s armed forces and security services for their stated commitment to ensuring law and order during this interim period, and we urge all Lebanese political groups to do their part to maintain calm and promote security for Lebanon’s citizens,’’ he said.
    State Department officials could not immediately say if those comments would be revised to reflect developments in Lebanon, including the rejection of emergency rule by Lebanon’s Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora’s Cabinet.
    The president cannot declare a state of emergency without approval from the government, but in Beirut, Lahoud’s spokesman said Saniora’s government is considered unconstitutional.
    In a travel alert issued as the two sides traded barbs, the State Department noted Lahoud’s action saying the election process ‘‘may pose security issues’’ for U.S. citizens and others in the country.
    ‘‘There is a strong possibility for demonstrations and unrest during this period,’’ it said. ‘‘The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens who live, work or are traveling in Lebanon to exercise responsible security practices.’’
    The embassy began restricting the movements of U.S. diplomats in Lebanon on Nov. 20, limiting their travel in downtown Beirut near the parliament building and other government offices and banned all but essential travel to Beirut International Airport until Monday.
    Amid the confusion in Beirut, McCormack urged the Lebanese parliament to continue the process of electing Lahoud’s successor without any outside interference, a reference to Syria, which the United States and others accuse of meddling, sometimes violently, in Lebanon’s political sphere.
    ‘‘Discussions should continue aimed at electing, as quickly as possible and according to the constitution and to democratic principles, a new Lebanese president who will stand for Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty and uphold international resolutions,’’ he said.
    ‘‘The United States and its allies will not waver in our support for the people of Lebanon as they defend their freedom against all attempts at foreign interference and intimidation,’’ McCormack said.

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