03/01/2005, 00.00
LEBANON - SYRIA

People power sinks Karami government

Situation unbearable, Interior Minister says, urges calm. Patriarch Sfeir is scheduled to meet US President Bush on March 16 in Washington.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – After a day of general strike and street demonstrations, the Lebanese are cheering the resignation of the pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karami.

The announcement that the cabinet had resigned came late in the evening, yesterday, right after the Lebanese parliament reconvened to discuss the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Mr Karami, who had been appointed to the post in October 2004, quit "so as to not hamper the investigation" into the murder of his predecessor.

Despite a government ban on demonstrations, thousands of people—both Christian and Muslim—had gathered in central Beirut on Sunday evening and took part in a rally on Monday to honour the memory of the late Prime Minister who was killed on February 14.

Lebanon's opposition parties and the international community point the finger at Syria as an instigator of the Hariri murder.

Opposition MPs waving the national flag in the capital's Martyr Square, the symbol of the protest movement, found themselves together with young protesters who had set up a tent city near Hariri's burial place.

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt reiterated the opposition's intention to pursue their peaceful struggle to see the Taef accords implemented which, among other things, call for the pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

The opposition is also calling for the dismissal of chiefs of the country's secret and security services.

Interior Minister Suleiman Frangieh backed Karami's decision.

Speaking to AsiaNews he said he would not join the new government and urged people to stay calm. The situation, in his view, had become unbearable. "Thank God, there has not yet been any violence," he said. "I am going home with a clear conscience," he added.

Bahia Hariri, the late Prime Minister's sister, is being mentioned as a possible successor. Sources close to Ms Hariri have however denied the rumour saying she urges everyone to focus on how to help the country overcome the current crisis.

Karami's resignation was well received in the US. White House press secretary Scott McClellan Scott McClellan said this event can pave the way to fresh elections in Lebanon and, referring to Syria, "free it from all foreign interference".

Press secretary McClellan also announced that the Maronite Patriarch, Card Nasrallah Sfeir, will officially meet US George W. President Bush on March 16 in Washington. (YH)

 

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Maronite Bishops denounce pro-Syrian demo
02/12/2004
Lebanese bishops call for interim government, urge unity
03/03/2005
It is time Syria let Lebanon be sovereign, Cardinal Sfeir says
24/09/2004
Patriarch Sfeir slams Syrian influence on constitutional changes
30/08/2004
Maronite Patriarch says Syria should withdraw in a situation of calm and dialogue
21/02/2005