- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s president reappointed Omar Karami as prime minister yesterday, less than two weeks after anti-Syrian demonstrations forced him from office.

The opposition dismissed the move as “irrelevant.”

President Emile Lahoud made the appointment after it was recommended by the Lebanese parliament.

The nation’s increasingly vocal opposition, galvanized by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last month, consider both Mr. Lahoud and Mr. Karami to be puppets of Syria.

Mr. Karami said he would try to work with the opposition to form a “national unity” government to run Lebanon until parliamentary elections in May.

“The difficulties we all know cannot be confronted without a government of national unity and salvation,” he said. “We will extend our hand and wait for the other side.”

Opposition officials said they would reject the offer to participate in a new government because they see it as a move to co-op them without offering real concessions.

“We knew they might do this, but couldn’t stop them from reappointing him,” said one official who asked not to be named.

“But we don’t care that much. The main goal has always been withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence units from Lebanon, followed by internationally monitored elections in May.”

Mr. Karami said that if he is unable to form a Cabinet that includes members of opposition groups, he might resign again.

“If there is no national unity government and if I am the obstacle, then I am ready to bow out,” Mr. Karami said.

The Bush administration said in Washington that Mr. Karami’s reappointment reflects Lebanon’s political realities.

“Prime Minister Karami said, when he resigned the first time, that he was resigning because he couldn’t be effective,” said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. “If ever there were a time that Lebanon needed effective government, that time is now.”

One pro-opposition intellectual dismissed the move as pointless, as the international community backs the opposition in pressuring Syria to completely withdraw its intelligence agents and 14,000 troops.

“This might rekindle the confrontation a little, but there is no sense from [President] Bush or [U.N. Secretary-General Kofi] Annan that there is any change in their position on Resolution 1559,” said Malik Habib, a professor at American University of Beirut.

Nicolas Kralev in Washington contributed to this article.

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