New government caught between opposing demonstrations
UN Resolution 1559 is the bone of contention between pro-Syrian Hezbollah and the opposition. Patriarch Sfeir backs resolution and is preparing for his Washington trip.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – It will become clear today what effect, if any,  yesterday's pro-Syrian, Hezbollah-backed rally, and the previous anti-Syrian, opposition-organised demonstrations, will have on Lebanese President Émile Lahoud, who is expected to name the new Prime Minister—the name of outgoing PM Karami is mentioned.

The local press said that yesterday's rally was the largest in the country's history. Estimates put the number at 1.6 million people; by contrast, Western agencies report that the turnout was around 200,000 to 400,000.

Whatever the actual number, it was a pro-Syrian show of force in which Hezbollah's General Secretary Hassan Nassrallah strongly appealed to the opposition to implement the Taef Agreement but rejected United Nations Resolution 1559. For the opposition and Maronite Patriarch, Card Nasrallah Sfeir, 1559 must instead be implemented.

The Cardinal will soon travel to the United States on an important mission that will last till March 21.

Eight members of the Lebanese National Assembly, among them Marwan Hamade and Nayla Mouawad, who are scheduled to leave for Europe, urged the Lebanese to remain united and follow the opposition in its demand for a Lebanon free from all foreign troops in accordance with the UN resolution. They also reiterated the demand that the truth about the February 14 assassination of former Lebanese Rafik Hariri be found.

Journalist and opposition MNA Marwan Hamade has called for a government of national reconciliation and insisted on the importance that international observers be present to monitor the upcoming elections.

He has also demanded the liberation of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and the return of General Michel Aoun, who has been in exile in Paris since 1990.

President Émile Lahoud has started meeting political leaders to choose Prime Minister Omar Karami's replacement.

Sources close to the Presidency told AsiaNews the outgoing Prime Minister, who resigned last week, might succeed himself. They also said that the new cabinet will resemble the old one, but with fewer ministers and a few new faces.

Outgoing Interior Minister Suleiman Frangiyeh informed AsiaNews this morning that he would not be part of the new cabinet. (YH)