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    Karami back to lead Lebanese Government

2005-03-12 06:23

BEIRUT: Omar Karami, who resigned as Lebanon's prime minister, was reappointed to form a new government on Thursday.

He is known for being uncompromising with opponents. This may mean he will have difficulty in persuading members of the opposition to join the "government of national unity" that he proposed on Thursday.

"We will extend our hand and wait for the other side" to respond, he told reporters after President Emile Lahoud appointed him prime minister designate.

A leader of the anti-Syrian opposition, Walid Jumblatt, described Karami's appointment as "an extension of the crisis" that would not "open the door to dialogue," but said he would give Karami a chance.

Karami, 70, is a Sunni Muslim from a family in the northern city of Tripoli that had produced two other Lebanese prime ministers.

His father, Abdul-Hamid Karami, served as premier after playing a leading role in the movement that led to Lebanon's independence from France in 1943. His older brother Rashid Karami led several governments.

A lawyer and a businessman, Karami was propelled into politics during the civil war after Rashid was assassinated by a bomb in his helicopter in 1987. He entered the cabinet in 1989 and became prime minister in 1990.

Two years later he was forced to resign when the collapse of the Lebanese pound against the US dollar provoked street riots.

He returned to the spotlight last October when he was designated prime minister after the resignation of Rafik Hariri due to differences with President Lahoud.

Karami backed a Syrian call for the extension of Lahoud's term by three years in September, the main trigger for the UN Resolution demanding that Syria ends its influence in Lebanon.

He called for a national unity government, but failed to persuade anybody in the opposition to accept a cabinet seat.

Opposition to Syria's 14,000 troops in Lebanon - a hangover from the 1975-90 civil war - was rising and demonstrations against the influence of Damascus were drawing support from across the traditional Muslim-Christian divide of Lebanese politics.

Hariri supporters accused Syria and Karami's government of creating the tense atmosphere that contributed to the bombing.

On February 28 the parliament debated Hariri's assassination. Initially Karami tried to tough it out. A few blocks from parliament, the daily anti-Syria demonstration grew to more than 25,000 people.

When Karami returned to parliament after the afternoon break, he surprised the chamber by saying: "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."

(China Daily 03/12/2005 page6)


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