Elections of Higher Islamic Council to be Held in Late Feb.

Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani announced on Monday that the elections of the Higher Islamic Council will be carried out during the last week of February.

This development comes after Qabbani canceled on Thursday his decision to call for the election of members of the Higher Islamic Council on Dec. 30.

Qabbani, who made the statement after holding talks with former Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss, expressed regret over the division among the Islamic body.

Last week, the Shura Council suspended the elections set by Qabbani for Dec. 30 after 21 Higher Islamic Council members, who are close to former PM Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, filed a challenge against the mufti’s call.

They described the elections for the Council that elects the mufti and organizes the affairs of Dar al-Fatwa as illegal over Qabbani’s failure to consult them before making his call.

Qabbani’s ties with Future Movement deteriorated last year when he met with a delegation from Hezbollah the same day the Special Tribunal for Lebanon indicted four party members in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s Feb. 2005 assassination.

Ties between the two sides went also downhill when the mufti met with Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdul Karim Ali, whom aFuture Movement and the March 14 opposition alliance have on several occasions said should be expelled.