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French Version

Lebanese opposition to insist on timely elections

Stress support for dialogue and national unity government after polls

Lebanon's opposition is expected to tell the current government that it can form a "one color Cabinet" without the opposition so long as next month's pariliamentary election takes place on schedule.

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The opposition added it intends to form a "national unity" Cabinet of its own choosing after the elections which could include Hizbullah and the Amal movement.

It is understood that the opposition members are ready to invite various political factions to join a post-election government so long as they are not "under Syrian control."

This leaves the way open for forming a government which would include Hizbullah and the Amal movement, but is likely to exclude many of those serving in Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami's caretaker Cabinet.

Opposition member Ziad Majed said: "We will announce our readiness to accept any government lineup on condition that it holds May's parliamentary elections on time."

He added: "We support national dialogue and the formation of a national unity government after the elections."

The announcement is set to be made during an opposition meeting on Wednesday at Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt's residence in Mukhtara.

Opposition members have so far rejected all offers of dialogue and participation in a Cabinet with the loyalist Ain al-Tineh gathering, insisting that their demands be met first. Their demands include the resignation of six security chiefs, an international probe into the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

But amid fears that the elections may be postponed as the political deadlock continues, opposition members visited Amal Movement leader Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday to assert their support for national unity.

After the meeting, member of Hariri's parliamentary Dignity Bloc, MP Walid Eido said: "I reiterated to Berri that our national and Muslim unity will not be shaken and that it is the basis of our political program."

Opposition member Kes-rouan MP Fares Boueiz, who also met with Berri, said: "We see several and many common points joining the opposition and the Ain al-Tineh gathering. The opposition is even ready to restore its relations with Syria."

Member of Hariri's parliamentary bloc MP Ghinwa Jalloul reiterated that statement, saying: "We look forward to good relations with Syria and for the formation of a national unity government, after the elections take place as scheduled."

Jalloul added the opposition will do the impossible to avoid a delay in the elections.

She said: "Even if there is no current Cabinet to conduct the elections, Parliament can still propose to amend the draft electoral law and vote on it. Legal experts are saying this is possible. This will be the opposition's next step if a Cabinet is not formed soon."

But several observers believe the elections are likely to be postponed until September 2005 because Parliament has failed to agree on an electoral law which would decide the division of each voting district.

One politician told The Daily Star that Karami, who was widely expected to announce whether he would remain designate premier later today, will wait until Wednesday before deciding whether he will stand down or try one last time to form a Cabinet to take the country into the elections.

The politician added although opposition members will not participate in the next Cabinet headed by Karami, they might suggest the names of some figures they deem trustworthy in order to break the deadlock.

The source added that the next Cabinet is expected to be presided over by Economy Minister Adnan Qassar, a close ally of leading opposition member, Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt.

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Beirut 29-03-2005
Nada Raad
The Daily Star

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