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France's Minister for Foreign Affairs heads to Lebanon

France's Minister for Foreign Affairs is going to Lebanon as an attempt to urge the rival leaders to agree on the election of a president.

Bernard Kouchner who was in Berlin for a joint meeting of the French and German Cabinets will travel to Beirut from the German capital, arriving Monday evening, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani said. The trip was expected to last 24 hours, she said.

Kouchner will meet Tuesday with Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the head of the Maronite Church, and other Lebanese public figures, Andreani said, without giving any other details.

The trip "fits within the framework of France's continuous effort in favor of an understanding between the parties" in Lebanon, she said.

Kouchner has made a priority of getting rival Lebanese factions to agree on the election of a new president as an essential step toward breaking a months-long political deadlock, and resolving a fierce power struggle between the Western-backed government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Separately, France's Defense Ministry said Monday that a French soldier in the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon was killed and another was hospitalized for treatment of injuries sustained in an accident during a combat training session in Dar Kifa.

Kouchner has made several visits to Lebanon, including one last month with the foreign ministers of Italy and Spain. In July, he hosted leaders from 14 feuding Christian and Muslim factions at a conference in France.

Lebanon is mired in its worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. Parliament will make another attempt to elect a president Nov. 21 but, as with previous attempts in September and October, the government and the opposition have been unable to reach a compromise before the assembly session.