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Jumblatt asks Assad to retire Lahoud

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Opposition leader says Lebanese president’s resignation is only way to improve Syrian-Lebanese ties.



BEIRUT - A senior Lebanese opposition figure, Walid Jumblatt, called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday to try to obtain the resignation of Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud.

"I appeal to the wise men of Syria, with Bashar al-Assad at their head, to rid us of Lahoud by bringing about his resignation," Jumblatt told an interviewer on Future TV, a channel belonging to the family of slain former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

"It's the only way to put an end to the regime of intelligence agents that has been installed with Lahoud and to improve Syrian-Lebanese relations."

Jumblatt and other opposition figures have stepped up the pressure on the pro-Syrian Lebanese leadership in the aftermath of Hariri's February 14 assassination.

The opposition has blamed the killing on Lebanese and Syrian agents, an accusation strongly denied by the Beirut and Damascus governments.

Hariri's death ignited a wave of public fury in Lebanon and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karameh, a Syrian sympathizer.

But Karameh was last week re-appointed by Lahoud and promptly appealed to the opposition to join him in a national unity government - an appeal that has so far fallen on deaf ears.

"We're not going to take part in their so-called national unity government," Jumblatt asserted, "because we refuse to cover up their crimes, the assassination of Hariri and the attempt on Marwan Hamade."

Hamade, an opposition MP, was injured in a bomb attack in October.

"They (the pro-Syrian parties) have the majority in parliament. Let them form the government they want," Jumblatt said.

Calls for Lahoud's resignation have lately increased from among opposition figures and even from some of those who are not considered opponents of the government, such as former president Elias Hrawi.

Lahoud was elected president by the Lebanese parliament in 1998. His term was extended for three years in 2004 under what was seen as Syrian pressure on deputies to approve a constitutional amendment.

Created by anita
Last modified 2005-04-09 11:54 PM

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