BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanon's president was taking on the task of forming a new government Tuesday, while opposition leaders shook off the jubilation of using people power to force out a pro-Syrian Cabinet and sought to ensure the next one is less beholden to Damascus.
A few diehard activists remained in tents overnight and about 400 protesters joined them midmorning, but Lebanese soldiers had been withdrawn from the area where the day before 25,000 flag-waving demonstrators demanded — and got — Prime Minister Omar Karami's (search) resignation.
"We will be here every day until the last Syrian soldier withdraws from our land," one activist said through a loudspeaker. The crowd, blowing whistles, chanted back: "Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence."
They sang in rhyming Arabic: "We are all, Muslims and Christians, against the Syrians."
Elsewhere in the country, shops, businesses and banks reopened after a one-day strike Monday to protest the Feb. 14 assassination of former prime minister and billionaire businessman Rafik Hariri (search), whose killing was the catalyst for the massive, peaceful protests demanding Syria release its military and political hold.
Syria keeps about 15,000 troops in Lebanon and all key political decisions get a stamp of approval from Damascus, but pressure from Lebanese as well as from an international community led by the United States has led to talk of a troop withdrawal.
"The Lebanese people have very courageously expressed their aspiration for freedom, their aspiration for a sovereign Lebanon. The Lebanese want to be masters of their own state," Barnier said.
Rice called on Syria to implement last year's U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which she said "is very clear" that foreign interference in Lebanon must end.
"The Syrians are out of step with where the region is going," she said.
Syria's government has remained silent about the rapidly changing atmosphere in Beirut, the protests or the resignation. Syria's state-controlled state media reported the resignation but did not mention the protests against the pro-Syrian government or show pictures on TV or in newspapers of the massive protests.
"Lahoud accepted the resignation of the Karami government," said the headline in the Syrian ruling party's Baath newspaper.
In Beirut, demonstrators vowed to carry on, demanding the resignation of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud (search) and the withdrawal of Syrian soldiers. Hariri's parliamentary bloc issued a statement late Monday demanding the departure of Lebanese security and intelligence chiefs.
Opposition leaders — a diverse group of Muslim, Druse and Christians — were expected to meet later Tuesday to chart their course. It wasn't clear if they would seek to keep up the street pressure or — as some have urged — step back to work through the political process to ensure a new government less tied to Damascus.
They have demanded a neutral government to organize parliamentary elections this spring and to investigate Hariri's murder, which they blame on the pro-Syrian government and Syria. Both governments have denied involvement.
The dramatic developments — reminiscent of Ukraine's peaceful "Orange Revolution" and broadcast live across the Arab world, including Syria where some people have access to satellite TV — could provoke a strong response from Syria. There are fears it also could plunge this nation of 3.5 million back into a period of uncertainty, political vacuum or worse.
The White House welcomed Karami's resignation, saying it opens the door for new elections "free of all foreign interference" from Syria, but called again on Damascus to pull out its soldiers.
"Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel need to leave the country," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "That will help ensure that elections are free and fair."
The State Department dubbed the events in Lebanon a "Cedar Revolution" — a moniker that bringing the country in line with Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution, Georgia's Rose Revolution, and Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
Lebanese carrying it out, however, call it their peaceful "independence uprising." They wave Lebanon's red-and-white flag with the Cedar tree in the middle and wear red and white scarves.
The task of forming a new government begins Tuesday. Lahoud accepted Karami's resignation on Monday and asked him to continue as a caretaker.
A date hasn't been set for Lahoud to begin parliamentary consultations to designate a prime minister, but his spokesman, Rafik Shalala, said the debate was expected to begin within two days and last a day. The president was to receive Nabih Berri (search), the parliament speaker, later Tuesday, the start of the process.
Then, the president will announce he will begin polling deputies. A decree to appoint a prime minister will be followed by consultations between the premier-designate and parliamentary blocs before naming a Cabinet. That process could take days or weeks. Parliament must sign on with a confidence vote in the Cabinet based on its policy statement.
In Lebanon's fractious politics, the prime minister should be a Sunni Muslim and Cabinet should be half Christian, half Muslim, with religious sects allocated seats according to their size.
The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian; the speaker of parliament is always a Shiite.
The new Cabinet will stay until the end of May, when the parliament's term expires.