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Lebanon PM cancels independence day celebrations

Lebanese PM cancels independence day celebrations amid impasse over electing next president

Lebanon PM cancels independence day celebrations

BEIRUT (AP) -- Lebanon's prime minister on Friday cancelled official independence day celebrations planned for the following day, a move that likely stemmed from the country's tense security situation and an impasse in electing its next president.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam cited the "current situation" for scrapping all government-hosted celebrations and a parade on Saturday, according to a terse statement on state-run media.

Lebanon has been without a president since May because bickering politicians, embroiled in disagreements related mostly to the war in neighboring Syria, haven't been able to agree on figure acceptable to all.

The president is an important symbolic figure in Lebanon selected from the country's Maronite Christian minority.

Security is also shaky in Lebanon, yet another side effect of Syria's civil war. Most recently in October, Lebanese hard-liners inspired by militants in Syria clashed with soldiers in the northern town of Tripoli for four days.

Lebanon's army chief on Friday described the Lebanese hard-liners as seeking to create an "emirate of darkness," stretching from the country's eastern border with Syria to the sea.

Gen. Jean Kahwaji's comments echoed that of Lebanese politicians and analysts who have said that the militants, some loyal to the Islamic State group, have sought to carve out a proto-state in the country's north, in imitation of the Islamic extremists' declaration of a caliphate in the territory they captured in Syria and Iraq.