BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon‘s MPs are set to re-elect a prominent pro-Syrian Shiite as speaker when they meet Tuesday as the first legislaure since the end of the 1975-90 civil war not controlled by pro-Damascus factions. Nabih Berri, who has held the post of speaker for the past 13 years under pro-Syrian regimes, opposes the disarmament of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist organisation.The disarming of Hezbollah, a key UN demand, is likely to be one of the thorniest issues facing a new Lebanese government that has yet to be formed following parliamentary elections that wrapped up more than a week ago.Most legislators decided Sunday to support the candidacy of Berri, who has held the post of speaker since 1992, following the four-round polls that were the first since Syria ended its three decade military presence in April.Saad Hariri’s Future Current movement holds the largest parliamentary bloc with 37 of 128 seats, and led the way in calling for another four-year term for Berri, but imposed certain conditions.Hariri, son of slain ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, and his supporters want Berri to facilitate an amnesty vote that would allow the jailed Christian former warlord Samir Geagea to be released from prison.

Geagea’s Lebanese Forces movement joined with Hariri and Druze leader and wartime foe Walid Jumblatt in the victorious opposition alliance.

The new legislators also want Berri, the leader of the Shiite movement Amal, to commit to instituting a new electoral law.

The position of speaker is reserved for a Shiite under Lebanon’s sectarian political system, which accords certain government posts to followers of designated religions.

Berri, who has served three consecutive terms since 1992, maintains strong relations with Iran, which he visited after he was elected an MP for southern Lebanon.

His re-election as speaker is also supported by his own Amal parliamentary bloc and Hezbollah MPs, which together account for 35 votes, and 16 deputies from Jumblatt’s Druze party.

Faced with the unlikely prospect of beating Berri, his main opponent, former speaker Hussein Husseini, took himself out of the running.

It is not known how independent anti-Syrian Christians, those representing Geagea’s LF, and MPs behind Christian firebrand Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Current will vote, but one source said they may submit blank ballots in a sign of disapproval of the pro-Syrian.

Amal formed an electoral alliance with Hezbollah under the slogan “No to disarming the anti-Israeli resistance,” and the two parties won all the available constituency seats in southern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The party heads viewed the vote as a plebiscite for Shiite groups that fought Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon from 1978 to 2000, and a slap in the face to international pressure for the Hezbollah to disarm in accordance with UN Resolution 1559.

Sponsored by the United States and France, the resolution calls for the retreat of all foreign armies from Lebanon and the disarmament of Lebanese militias.

International pressure forced Syria to comply with resolution in the wake of Hariri’s assassination in February, and all Syrian troops left the country in April.

Hezbollah is the only Lebanese militia that has not disarmed since the civil war ended in 1990