Cabinet quits over Hariri death in Lebanon

THE Lebanese prime minister, Omar Karami, resigned last week, two weeks after the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri and amid growing public anger and open defiance by thousands of Lebanese against Syria.

  • E-Mail
By  Massoud A. Derhally Published  March 6, 2005

THE Lebanese prime minister, Omar Karami, resigned last week, two weeks after the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri and amid growing public anger and open defiance by thousands of Lebanese against Syria. Startling the speaker of the house, Nabih Berri, Karami — a Syrian loyalist — said: “I am keen that the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country. I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honour to head. May God preserve Lebanon.” Karami took over as prime minister four months ago after Hariri resigned in protest against an amendment made to the Lebanese constitution, which extended president Emile Lahoud’s six-year term in office. Karami said he resigned because Hariri’s sister Bahia, a member of parliament, asked him to. The resignation followed a fortnight of wide-scale demonstrations against Syria and the pro-Syrian Lebanese government, who are blamed by many Lebanese for the killing of Hariri on February 14. Last Monday, the government opposition, spearheaded by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, was expected to call for a no confidence vote in Karami’s government. However, the pro-Syrian Lebanese prime minister surprised both Syria and others and resigned before the declaration. In the run up to the government’s resignation, some 10,000 Lebanese descended on Martyrs' Square from midnight last Sunday waving the white and red Lebanese flag and shouting, “Syria out.” Many other demonstrators, who defied the 5am ban on gatherings in central Beirut, came armed with roses, which they gave out to soldiers and anti-riot police. Elated by the resignation, opposition leaders seized the moment. They took to the streets and joined 60,000 people that had gathered throughout the day outside parliament in downtown Beirut, next to Mohammed Al Amin Mosque where Hariri is buried. As thousands cheered and celebrated the downfall of the government, some sections of the crowd were heard chanting “Lahoud, your turn is coming.” Reacting to the news, Jumblatt said: “This is only the first step. The security apparatuses which might have had a hand in the killing should resign,” adding: “we are ready for direct discussions with Syria at any moment.” Jumblatt has cautioned against any kind of reprisals against Syrian workers in Lebanon and said he would seek the prosecution of justice minister Adnan Addoum and interior minister Suleiman Franjieh. Jumblatt has openly claimed the outgoing Lebanese government was involved in the killing of Hariri. Jumblatt and other members of the opposition have called for the implementation of the Taif Accord (National Reconciliation Accord) that ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil war between 1975 and 1990 and provides the framework for the withdrawal of Syria’s 15,000 troops, which should have taken place in 1992. As the US State Department released its annual report on human rights abuses around the world, under secretary of State Paula Dobriansky described the situation in Lebanon as a “Cedar Revolution”, in reference to the tree on the Lebanese flag. “In Lebanon, we see growing momentum for a Cedar Revolution that is unifying the citizens of that nation to the cause of true democracy and freedom from foreign influence,” said Dobriansky. According to the Lebanese constitution, which is based upon that of the French Third Republic, the resigning government acts as caretaker until a new cabinet is formed. However, the transitional cabinet is not allowed to take major decisions such as making amendments to the constitution or changing electoral laws. The president, who is now on the lookout for a prime minister, must consult members of parliament before any appointment is made. According to the constitution, the prime minister must be Sunni, the president must be Christian, and the parliament speaker must be Shiite. The central objective of the new government will be to organise parliamentary elections, which are supposed to take place at the end of May, but with no Sunni prime minister in sight, Lebanon may declare a state of emergency and authorise military rule until elections in May.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code