Russia urges Lebanon to hold elections on schedule

Russia on Thursday urged Lebanon to hold May elections on schedule despite political deadlock following the resignation of the country's pro-Syrian prime minister-designate.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said that the Lebanese leadership and all political forces must show enough flexibility to enable "the holding of free, fair and transparent elections within the timetable laid down."

"This would have a decisive effect in resolving and stabilizing the situation in Lebanon and would lessen tensions in the region as a whole," he said.

The Lebanese opposition has said it could call for a new round of street protests to push the government into holding the elections on schedule, by May 31. The opposition expects to win the vote and end pro-Syrian factions' longtime domination of parliament.

The United States has been at the forefront of international pressure to end Syria's decades-long control of Lebanon. Russia, a Soviet-era ally of Syria, also urged an end to the Syrian troop presence in Lebanon.

The pressure has prompted Damascus to order the withdrawal of its military from its smaller neighbor, due to be completed by April 30. About 4,000 Syrian soldiers remain.

But the opposition has accused the government of drawing out the crisis to scuttle elections and keep the pro-Syrian parliament in place, preserving Damascus' political influence even after its troops are gone.


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