- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

BEIRUT — An impasse over the formation of an interim Lebanese government has made a delay in parliamentary elections, scheduled for next month, inevitable, said opposition officials, who are threatening a new round of anti-government demonstrations.

Lebanon’s prime minister and Cabinet resigned amid protests sparked by the mysterious Feb. 14 bombing death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Omar Karami was reappointed as prime minister by President Emile Lahoud a few days after his Feb. 28 resignation, but has failed to form a government.

“We are hopeful there will be a push to form a government in time for the upcoming elections, but the chances of that happening diminish with each passing day,” said Beirut parliamentarian Ghinwa Jalloul, who represents Mr. Hariri’s Sunni Muslim bloc.

“Some of the loyalists have said publicly that they will take all legal and public means to halt the election from taking place,” Mrs. Jalloul said.

Polling was to have been held in May, but election law requires a government. Unless one is in place by the end of April, the elections will have to wait.

At protests in late February and March, the opposition blamed Syria and its Lebanese loyalists for Mr. Hariri’s death and demanded an end to Syrian occupation and control.

Despite the political wrangling, Syria has continued to withdraw its troops under pressure generated by the demonstrations.

Many of the 14,000 troops that were in Lebanon in February have left for Syria, and the remaining 4,000 are likely to be out within 10 days, Lebanese officials said yesterday.

Syria began its occupation of Lebanon in 1976 in an effort to control a violent civil war that raged until 1990. After the war, Syria exercised control of Lebanon with international approval.

Many Lebanese consider the prime minister and president to be Syria’s pawns. Mr. Karami and Mr. Lahoud have expressed a desire to form a government and hold elections, but say they have been stymied by ministers and the opposition’s refusal to participate.

Opposition figures reject this claim as preposterous.

“Many of these pro-Syrian groups have decided that they don’t want an election that will drive them from power, so they stall and delay in the hopes the anti-Syrian opposition will eventually lose momentum,” said Fares Soueid, a Christian member of parliament and an opposition supporter.

Anti-Syrian demonstrations brought up to hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Beirut last month.

“If they form a new government soon, then OK,” Mr. Soueid said yesterday. “But if they don’t, then we will bring more pressure to bear on them in the streets of Beirut.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide