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Israeli-Palestinian tensions in southern Lebanon have taken the spotlight off an even more delicate Lebanese problem - presidential elections.

The six-year term of President Elias Sarkis is ending, and the Lebanese parliament must elect a successor. Observers say they expect a spirited campaign but in the end a noncontroversial president, because of extreme sensitivity of all factions.

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According to one observer, the 22,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon actually may help keep the peace and facilitate the Sept. 23 election - this despite the doubts of moderate Arab regimes, who fund the Syrian presence, about Syria's real contribution to Lebanese stability.

A bigger question is whether the various militias that control Beirut will try to pressure the parliament and influence its choice. In that event, frets one source, a new civil war could occur.m

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