Lebanese Caretaker PM to Quit Again

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A senior aide to Lebanon's caretaker prime minister said Omar Karami (search) likely will quit — for the second time in a month — after failing to break a political deadlock and form a Cabinet. The move could delay the country's parliamentary elections.

"Prime Minister Karami is expected tomorrow to bow out of forming the government," the aide told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Karami was asked to form a government on March 10, 10 days after he resigned in the face of massive anti-Syrian protests following the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (search).

The senior aide recalled a statement made by Karami, a staunch ally of Syria, earlier this month. Karami said he would ask to be relieved of the position if he failed to convince the opposition, which strongly opposes Syria's role in Lebanon, to join him in a "national unity government."

Karami made the same point this week in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir.

"I have said, and I stick to my position, that I will not form a normal government. The circumstances are critical and they require a rescue operation in which all (parties) should participate," As-Safir quoted Karami as saying. The remarks were confirmed as accurate by one of his aides.

"As long as these matters have not been achieved, I will inform President (Emile) Lahoud of my decision to bow out," he added.

The opposition, which has been supported by huge demonstrations, has refused to join an all-party Cabinet unless three conditions are met: the appointment of an international investigation into Hariri's assassination, the dismissal of Lebanese security chiefs deemed responsible for the assassination and the formation of a bipartisan government that would oversee elections after all Syrian troops and intelligence agents have left Lebanon.

Last week Lebanon accepted that the United Nations would take charge of appointing an investigation into the assassination. But the other two conditions have not been met.

Some opposition members have accused Karami and his pro-Syrian allies of stalling over the formation of a Cabinet in order to scuttle the chances of holding elections on time. The staggered polls are due to begin late April and continue into May. The opposition is expected to triumph in the elections.