The Lebanese president only has limited powers, which fall to the Cabinet in the absence of a head of state, but both the political opposition and pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term expired at midnight Friday, had pledged not to let that happen, the Financial Times reported.
The pro-Syrian bloc regards the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as illegitimate since Hezbollah and its allies withdrew from the Cabinet last year, the newspaper said. The withdrawal left the government without representatives of the large Shiite minority.
The Financial Times said Beirut largely was abandoned Friday, with army and police surrounding government buildings.
The Lebanese president is selected by the parliament but the political opposition has boycotted the process.