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French Version

Lebanese opposition calls for resignation of security chiefs (Daily Star)

Lebanon's political opposition has failed to adopt Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt's call for President Emile Lahoud to step down in its official list of demands for approving a transitional government.

Instead the group called for the resignation of the country's security chiefs in the wake of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination and for Syria's President Bashar Assad to withdraw all his country's troops and intelligence agencies from Lebanon immediately.

The demand for the "immediate" resignation of Lebanon's public prosecutor and six top security officials to ensure the integrity of the probe into Hariri's assassination, followed a meeting of most of the opposition grouping at Jumblatt's ancestral mansion of Mukhtara, where he has remained in recent days for security purposes.

Jumblatt was philosophical about the rejection by his colleagues of his demand that Lahoud should resign.

He said: "This statement might not be up to the ambitions of the Lebanese youth. But the unity of the opposition was placed above all."

Jumblatt added: "Our demands are moderate, the popular demands downtown are much higher."

But speaking later on CNN, the Druze leader said: "The best scenario is for the president to resign and for Parliament to appoint a new president and Cabinet."

The refusal to demand Lahoud's resignation is understood to have come about after Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir urged the opposition to work for change within the framework of the country's Constitution.

Sfeir, the spiritual patron of the Christian Qornet Shehwan opposition group is understood to feel Lahoud's resignation may lead to unrest in the country.

Under Lebanon's Constitution and confessional system of government, the office of president must be held by a Maronite.

But Minyeh MP Ahmed Fatfat insisted the omission was simply due to the fact that his resignation was not backed by all the opposition.

Fatfat, who read the gathering's statement, said: "These demands are the only way out of the dark tunnel we are now in."

Despite its failing to demand Lahoud's resignation, the opposition spared no punches in its denunciation of the president.

The statement said the "unconstitutional and illegitimate" extension of the president's term of office last year, a move largely orchestrated by Syrian intervention, was to blame for the country's current political crisis.

Jumblatt said: "The Syrian decision to support Lahoud brought about this catastrophe."

The Chouf MP called for Syria to give a timetable for the withdrawal of its 15,00 troops and intelligence officers. "I expect Syria to accept our demands. We will not accept any more delays. The young people of Lebanon won't accept any more delays."

In a bid to break the current political logjam, the opposition said it would send a delegation of two MPs to submit

its demands to Lahoud as soon as the president sets the date for parliamentary consultations to begin.

But Fatfat insisted the delegation would not be allowed to discuss the formation of any new Cabinet. "This does not mean we are going to hold negotiations with the president over the formation of a new Cabinet. The delegation will only hand him this document."

The opposition also refused to nominate a successor to outgoing Premier Omar Karami until Lahoud meets their demands in full.

Fatfat reiterated the opposition's demands for an international probe into Hariri's murder. The full list of those whom the opposition insists must resign is: Director General of State Security Edward Mansour, Director General of the Internal Security Forces Ali Hajj, head of Military Intelligence Raymond Azar, State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum, Director General of the Surete Generale Jamil Sayyed, Commander of the Presidential Guard Mustafa Hamdan and head of the Monitoring Agency in the Lebanese Intelligence Bureau Ghassan Tufeili.

Nayla Mouawad, who sat alongside Jumblatt and Fatfat, said the people on the list have transformed the country into what she called "a police state."

She added: "Those people are the real powers in the country and the fault of Premier Karami's government is that it was serving as a cover to them."

Beirut 03-03-2005
Nayla Assaf
The Daily Star

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