After a vote in parliament, Lebanon’s president Emile Lahoud looks set to ask his recently-resigned pro-Syrian prime minister to form a new government.The appointment of Omar Karami is likely to anger the anti-Syrian opposition, who pressured the prime minister to resign in the first place over the assassination of former leader Rafik al-Hariri. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is facing growing pressure to completely withdraw his troops from neighbouring Lebanon before parliamentary polls there in May. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s main opposition leader, Walid Jumblatt, has been meeting the European Union’s foreign policy chief in Brussels. Javier Solana reiterated the EU’s backing of a UN resolution which demands the withdrawal of Syria’s 14,000 troops from Lebanon and an end to political interference by Damascus in Beirut’s affairs. Jumblatt once again called for dialogue with Hizbollah. The UN resolution also requests the disarmament of all militias – a reference to the Hizbollah. Syrian soldiers have begun pulling back to east Lebanon as part of a two-phased withdrawal announced by President Assad. Whether that will be completed before a two-month deadline imposed by Washington is yet to be seen. Syria has already said it will not abandon what it calls its responsibility towards Lebanon.
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