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Lebanon extends term of army chief Kahwaji

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Defense Minister Samir Moqbel said he would extend the term of army chief General Jean Kahwaji on Thursday, avoiding a vacuum at the head of the military, whose leadership has been a subject of political dispute.

"It isn't possible or logical, and nobody could accept it, that the military establishment and the army continue without a leader," Moqbel said in a statement shown on live television.

Lebanon faces a domestic political crisis that has prevented it from choosing a president for more than two years as its army and security forces confront a militant threat stemming from the five-year civil war in neighboring Syria.

The decision to extend Kahwaji's term heading the army, seen as a rare neutral institution in a country beset by sectarian divisions, was supposed to have been made by the cabinet, but it failed to convene because of the political crisis.


Leadership of the military is one of the biggest disputes among Lebanon's rival parties, a disagreement that contributed to the boycott of a parliament session on Wednesday by most of its members, and prevented the cabinet from meeting.

Moqbel said his decision could be overturned at any time by the cabinet. Kahwaji was appointed army commander by the cabinet in 2008 and his term has been extended twice before.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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