The Lebanese parliament convenes on Sunday to elect army chief Michel Sleiman as president in a first step towards defusing an often deadly 18-month standoff between feuding political factions. Lawmakers will gather at 5:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) to cast their votes at a long-awaited parliamentary session due to be attended by 200 invited guests including Arab and Western dignitaries. The main challenge for Sleiman, 59, will be to impose himself as a neutral figure and reconcile the Western-backed parliamentary majority and the opposition, which is backed by Iran and Syria. Bickering between the two camps had left the presidency vacant since Emile Lahoud's term ended in November, and 19 previous attempts to get lawmakers together to elect a successor failed.