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French Version

Karami to resign after failing to form unity government

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami said he will step down after failing to form a government including opposition and loyalists. It is widely expected he will formally submit his resignation to President Emile Lahoud this Thursday after a formal meeting of the pro-Syrian Ain al-Tineh grouping which Karami is a leading member of.

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The delay in the official announcement has increased speculation that the president will attempt to postpone May's scheduled parliamentary elections while it attempts to form a new Cabinet.

Following a meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, Karami said: "I am not willing to form a government similar to the one we had before and I came to put the speaker in picture."

He added: "I will visit President Emile Lahoud on Wednesday to inform him of my decision but I will not formally announce my resignation until I meet with the Ain al-Tineh gathering again, which should occur soon."

Karami fired a parting shot at the country's political opposition and blamed them for his resignation and the continuing political deadlock which leaves Lebanon without an effective government.

He said: "They are the ones who rejected my invitations to join me in a national unity government. Of course they are responsible. Our hands were open to them and we were ready to discuss any issue. Any issue."

He added: "Lahoud and myself received an invitation to visit Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak this week but we apologized because we cannot leave the country in the current situation."

But sources close to the Cabinet said Lahoud will launch a last-ditch attempt later today to convince the prime minister-designate not to step down.

It is understood that Lahoud will instead ask Karami to form a transitional Cabinet composed of figures that will not run for the next parliamentary elections as The Daily Star called for on Tuesday.

Lahoud said: "I am determined to create a suitable climate to form a Cabinet that would be supported by the majority of Lebanese leading politicians, a government that would follow up investigations into Hariri's assassination and hold the elections on time."

But parliamentary insiders said that in the event of Karami finally resigning this week, former Premier Rashid al-Solh was likely to be asked to form a 14 member Cabinet.

Karami's reappointment on March 10, after his abrupt resignation on February 28 in the face of huge public demonstrations, was seen by many as a deliberate attempt by Lahoud to widen political tensions between anti-Syrian groups and loyalists in the wake of Hizbullah's huge rally in Beirut the previous week.

Meanwhile, Karami's proposed resignation led to fresh international calls for May's parliamentary elections to take place on schedule.

After a visit to Berri, French Ambassador Bernard Emie said: "France is interested in seeing the formation of a Cabinet as soon as possible and to see fair and honest parliamentary elections in the presence of international observers."
Emie added: "We hope the elections will be held on time."

Lebanon's political opposition called for a "national consensus Cabinet" to be formed once Karami formally steps down, insisting it should include figures who receive the blessing of all parties.

But some among the loyalists insisted the May elections should be postponed.

MP Wajih Baarini said after meeting with Karami: "It has become essential now to delay the (May) elections to avoid additional tensions between the Lebanese."

Some of them say that a national unity government should proceed the elections.

After a visit to Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Syrian National Socialist Party's president Gebran Araiji said: "We agree with Sayyed Nasrallah that a national unity government is needed now particularly before the elections."

He added: "However, some political sides have rejected this offer and are paving the way for the current rule to be long lasting."

But after visiting Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, opposition MP and member of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering Nayla Mouawad said: "We will not give up our main demand that elections be held on time."

It is not yet decided if opposition MPs will boycott the parliamentary consultations with Lahoud that will seek to appoint Karami's successor.

Qabbani said: "We will decide later with the opposition. We might participate in the consultations but we will not name any member of the bloc to participate in the next Cabinet."

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Beirut 30-03-2005
Nada Raad
The Daily Star

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