FACTBOX: Key facts about Lebanon’s next president

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, May 21, 2008
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(Reuters) – Rival Lebanese leaders agreed a deal on Wednesday to end political conflict, paving the way to elect army commander General Michel Suleiman as the next president.

The presidential election, delayed repeatedly since November, is now scheduled for June 10, but since the leaders agreed on a deal in Doha, parliamentarians are expected to confirm Suleiman into office this week.

The post is reserved for a Maronite Christian under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system.

Here are some key facts about Suleiman.

* Suleiman, 59, has been army commander since 1998. Since then, Israeli troops withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006 and the army battled and defeated al Qaeda-inspired militants in north Lebanon last year.

* The general, who has good ties with Syria, has been credited with keeping the army neutral during domestic splits and violence over the past three years.

* But the anti-Syrian governing coalition did not view him favorably, partly because he did not suppress those protests. Some have also criticized him for not doing enough to quell the most recent violence in which Hezbollah fighters routed supporters of the U.S.-backed government and briefly seized parts of Beirut.

* Suleiman gained popularity last year after the army defeated Islamist fighters at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. The fighting killed more than 420 people, including 169 soldiers.

* He graduated from the Military Academy in 1970 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Administrative Sciences from the Lebanese University. He was commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade between 1993-1996, a time which witnessed two major Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon.

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