File - Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk speaks during an interview in Beirut, Saturday, March 7, 2015. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Wednesday warned of grave consequences to the country's finances and its struggling economy posed by the prolonged presidential vacuum, in the latest plea by government officials to rival leaders to act to elect a president.In the meantime, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel signaled he would lengthen the mandate of Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi for another year, defying strong objections by the Free Patriotic Movement ministers, who have boycotted Cabinet sessions in protest at the extension of senior military officials' terms.Machnouk warned that time was not on Lebanon's side, urging rival factions to agree on the election of a president.Speaking to reporters after meeting former President Michel Sleiman, Moqbel said the terms of Kahwagi and Army Chief of Staff Maj.Moqbel last month extended the term of Maj."When the country is in danger, we should not engage in rivalries and accusations but instead we should go to tackling our crises away from noise and commotion," Berri was quoted as saying by a number of MPs during his weekly meeting with lawmakers at his Ain al-Tineh residence.Instead of trading blame for responsibility for the presidential deadlock, he stressed that "only a national and political understanding" could pave the way for the election of a president.MP Ghazi Aridi from MP Walid Jumblatt's bloc said street protests would not solve the political crisis.MP Abdel-Majid Saleh from Berri's bloc said the FPM's street protests would lead nowhere.
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