Monday, February 28, 2005

My Way News- Lebanon Govt. Quits, Pressure Mounts on Syria

My Way News-Lebanon Govt. Quits, Pressure Mounts on Syria:

"BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's Syrian-backed government collapsed Monday, piling more pressure on Damascus, already under fire from the United States and Israel.

Prime Minister Omar Karami, under opposition fire since the Feb. 14 assassination of his predecessor Rafik al-Hariri, told parliament his government was resigning to ensure that it 'does not become an obstacle to the good of the country.'

The news delighted thousands of flag-waving demonstrators who had defied an official ban to protest at Syrian domination of Lebanon. Banks, schools and businesses had closed after an opposition call for an anti-Syrian general strike.

Druze opposition leader Walid Jumblatt said the 'people have won' and called for calm. 'Today we are at a new turning point in the history of the country,' he said.

A Syrian official source, who asked not to be named, said only: 'This is an internal affair. Lebanon has the constitutional channels that govern these issues.'

Syria plays a dominant role in Lebanon and maintains 14,000 troops there. Pressure has been growing within Lebanon and from abroad for a complete military withdrawal.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he thought Washington might eventually resort to military action against his country.

'Washington has imposed sanctions on us and isolated us in the past, but each time the circle hasn't closed around us,' Assad told Italy's Repubblica newspaper.

'If, however, you ask me if I'm expecting an armed attack, well I've seen it coming since the end of the war in Iraq.'

Asked if an attack was imminent, Assad said: 'I don't think so, for now it's just skirmishing. True, the White House language, if looked at in detail, leads one to expect a campaign similar to the one that led up to attack on Iraq.'

U.S. PRESSURE

Syria has come under intense diplomatic fire from Washington since Hariri's killing in a huge bomb blast in Beirut. Many Lebanese blame Syria, which denies responsibility."

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