BEIRUT, Lebanon – Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his Cabinet resigned Tuesday following months of divisions within the government and continued economic problems.
The resignation was expected to set the stage for the appointment of a more broadly based government.
Analysts said Hariri, who is credited with rebuilding Lebanon from the devastation of the 1975-90 civil war, will likely be renamed prime minister and asked to form the next government.
Hariri submitted the resignations to President Emile Lahoud Tuesday night, the president said in a statement.
In Lebanon, the president appoints the prime minister who then forms a Cabinet with parliament's approval.
Bassem Sabei, a former information minister and a Hariri ally, told Future television the resignation showed the leadership's desire to form a "more cohesive government."
The outgoing Cabinet had been divided over various issues, including the arrest of anti-Syrian demonstrators last year and licenses for mobile telephone operators. At times, the divisions between Hariri and ministers turned into public arguments.
Lebanon has also been beset by economic difficulties, marked by a foreign debt that continues to increase.
The change may also be a result of new tensions between the United States and Syria, which maintains 20,000 troops in Lebanon and holds strong influence there.
The new Cabinet is expected to be more broadly based, possibly including members of the Christian community who are mildly opposed to Syria's presence in Lebanon.
Under Lebanon's system of sectarian power-sharing, the president is Maronite Catholic, the prime minister is Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament is Shiite Muslim. The Cabinet is divided equally among Christians and Muslims.
Hariri, a dynamic 58-year-old billionaire businessman who made his fortune in Saudi Arabia, has served as prime minister since 1992 except for the years 1998-2000.
The outgoing Cabinet has been in office since November 2000 after Hariri and his allies swept the parliamentary elections.