Source Pravda.Ru

Pro-Syrian Lebanese premier pessimistic about forming new government, according to newspaper interview

Prime Minister-designate Omar Karami said in comments published Friday that he was pessimistic about forming a national unity government but that he would do his utmost to start a dialogue with the opposition. Karami, who was reappointed to his post Thursday 10 days after resigning under a wave of popular opposition, also said he would welcome an international delegation headed by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to observe upcoming parliamentary elections, even though he warned that the polls may have to be postponed. His comments to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper marked the first time a senior Lebanese official has signaled acceptance of international observers for the elections, scheduled to take place in May and April. The United States and France have called for free elections to be held in the spring, free of Syrian intervention. "The goal in the near term is to make certain that the Lebanese people have a fair opportunity to have free elections and to determine their own political future," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters en route to meetings in Mexico Thursday. Carter heads a private human rights organization called the Carter Center, which monitors elections worldwide, including the Palestinian elections that were held January. Karami, who resigned Feb. 28, is now responsible for forming a new Cabinet. He said he was not hopeful about forming a national unity government. "I will keep trying to start a dialogue with the opposition, without preconditions," Karami told the London-based newspaper. He added, however: "I am now heading a caretaker government ... and I might stay that way for a long time." Karami said he realized he was holding "a ball of fire" in his hands, adding that he has accepted the task of forming a new government for the country's sake. "I don't care about the prime ministry. But what do we do with the country? Do we just let it drown in chaos and head toward the unknown?" he asked. The opposition rejected Karami even before his reinstatement was official. They have demanded a neutral government, complaining that the national unity proposal was a trap to bring opposition members into the Cabinet without giving them a say in policymaking. The Christian opposition group Qornet Shehwan rejected Karami's reappointment Thursday, calling it "an escalation that confirms Syria's insistence on the policy of tutelage which the Lebanese have refused and consequently increases the doubts about Syria's seriousness in withdrawing its troops from Lebanon." Syria began this week pulling its 14,000 troops in Lebanon back to the eastern Bekaa Valley and will negotiate with the Beirut government on the troop's full removal at a later date. Associated Press

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