July 8, 1978 – Italy Elects Pertini, First Socialist Head Of State – Sporadic Rifle Fire Dogs Beirut – Sadat Still Optimistic About Peace
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July 8, 1978 – Big news from Italy on this day. After 15 ballots and three weeks of bitter political in-fighting, Italy elected, by overwhelming majority, 81 year old Sandro Pertini as head of State. It would be Italy’s 7th President and the successor to Giovanni Leone, who resigned amid corruption charges on July 15th. It marked the first time a Socialist was elected to the highest office. Pertini, a veteran Socialist and well-known Resistance fighter, was once jailed for seven years by Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini. He became the most likely to win support from the five political parties, including The Christian Democrats, The Socialists and the Communists. There was initial opposition from Christian Democrats, who were angered by Socialist insistence that the new President be a Socialist, or else. In the end, warm applause broke out in Parliament as the announcement that Pertini had won with 832 out of 995 votes cast. Admittedly, part of the applause was relief that, after 15 ballots, 16 was the charm.
In other news – Heavy artillery had been replaced by sporadic rifle fire in parts of Beirut, but for the most part the latest ceasefire between Syrian troops and Right wing Christian Militia groups appeared to be holding. Even so, the situation is trigger-taught. The Rightist militia in the Christian enclave in Beirut were still on full alert behind their barricades. Across the rooftops of the city, Syrian units of the Arab Deterrent Force were standing by. According to press reports, Lebanese President Sarkis delayed his resignation after appeals by Ambassadors including the United States. But his bags are packed if the fighting starts up again.
And Egyptian President Anwar Sadat expressed optimism that a peace settlement in the Middle-East was still achievable. He was in discussions in Vienna with Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky. Sadat was also meeting with West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the following day meeting with Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres. An Austrian spokesman said a joint meeting between all four was likely to take place during the weekend.
And that’s a small slice of what happened, this July 8, 1978 as presented by The CBS World News Roundup.