The influential speaker of Lebanon's parliament signalled on Friday that a deal to elect a president was almost ready, raising hopes that a presidential vacuum which has paralysed the political system for nearly two years could soon be filled.
Lebanese newspaper An-nahar cited Speaker Nabih Berri saying in an interview that the presidency had "truly ripened" and it was time to "pick it".
His comments were published after former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, said he was confident parliament would elect a president on March 23 or at the next session in April, according to LBC TV station.
The Lebanese cabinet, parliament and politicians failed to agree on a new president for nearly two years while Syria's war next door has driven more than 1 million refugees into the country.
The presidency in Lebanon is reserved for Maronite Christian candidates, while the post of prime minister is reserved for Sunnis and the post of government speaker is reserved for Shiite politicians. Lebanon's prime minister is chosen by the president, who is elected by parliamentary vote.
Behind the Lebanese deadlock is the conflict of interest between the two halves comprising the political atmosphere in Beirut. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies including Christian politician Michel Aoun, and the Saudi-backed mainly Sunni pro-Western Future Movement are led by politician Saad al Hariri and his allies. Both parties disagree on a wide spectrum of middle eastern issues, mainly the Syrian civil war that started in 2011.
A Beirut-based garbage disposal campaign "You Stink," holds rallies over uncollected garbage, reflecting long-simmering anger about government incompetence and political corruption.