UNITED NATIONS (AP) – A Lebanese law professor announced he was running for president of his country and urged the United Nations and democratic governments to support the quick exit of President Emile Lahoud.
Chibli Mallat claimed that Lahoud has lost "all credibility" and was still president in violation of Lebanon”s constitution and a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in September 2004 which called for presidential elections free from foreign influence.
Instead, at Syria”s behest, the Lebanese parliament voted to change the constitution a day after the U.N. resolution was adopted so the pro-Syrian Lahoud could remain president until 2007, Mallat said.
"I”m ashamed to be in the U.N. to insist that my president has to leave," Mallat said Wednesday. "It”s absolutely abnormal, but justice comes first."
Mallat, a law professor at Saint Joseph University in Beirut who is currently teaching at Yale Law School, told reporters the security situation in Lebanon was still so unstable that he had been advised by friends to stay out of the country. He expressed hope that this situation was temporary, and blamed part of the insecurity on Lahoud.
"We have a sitution of an unconstitutional, undemocratic president standing in violation of a very clear Security Council resolution,"
Mallat told a press conference at the U.N. Correspondents Association.
He said Lahoud”s reputation had suffered a further blow when chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis said in his recent report that a suspect in the Feb. 14 truck bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri made a call to the president”s phone minutes before the blast. Lahoud”s office denied he received such a call.
Mallat called on the Lebanese parliament, which chooses the president, to meet as soon as possible and after an open debate between contenders to elect a new president. By tradition, the Lebanese president comes from the Christian Maronite community, and Mallat said he backed a "democratic revolution" in Lebanon and was offering "better leadership for the Maronite community."
But he said the most important function of a new parliamentary vote would be to restore real competition for the presidency, which hasn”t been seen in Lebanon since 1970.
Christian leader Michel Aoun is already a declared presidential candidate and his parliamentary bloc is pivotal in any legislative effort to bring down the president.
"I think there are plenty of people coming to the fore," Mallat said. "Let us all compete regionally, internationally, on ideas, on achievement, on standing and then the deputies choose."
But Lahoud has vowed to remain in office, and if he doesn”t resign, the 128-member parliament can only remove him by issuing charges of treason or violating the constitution, or by passing a law to shorten his now-extended term. The parliamentary majority opposed to him, however, does not have the necessary two-thirds margin for any of those moves.
"What I would ask is for democratic governments to support the process, and to support the quick exit of Mr. Lahoud," Mallat said. He also called for Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council to be more active in getting Lahoud out. "I think this is very important," he said.