Opposition Splits on Lahoud Ouster
Byline: Mitchell Prothero, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BEIRUT - Opposition groups took different stands yesterday on whether to press for the ouster of President Emile Lahoud as the next step in their drive to rid Lebanon of Syrian influence.
Planning sessions took place in back rooms and on the streets among parties and coalitions still flush with excitement after forcing the Syrian-backed prime minister and Cabinet to resign this week.
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, the most prominent politician to ally himself with what organizers have dubbed the "Cedar Revolution," called yesterday for Mr. Lahoud - a Christian whose term was extended last year under Syrian pressure - to quickly follow Prime Minister Omar Karami out the door.
"I prefer that [Mr. Lahoud] leaves and that we get rid of this bad regime and start a new page in Lebanese-Syrian and internal Lebanese relations," he said.
But leaders of the mainly Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) argued at a strategy session that it would be better to wait until after parliamentary elections in the spring in hopes of increasing their leverage.
"Because the current parliament remains loyal to Syria, a resignation by Lahoud could see us forced to accept new leaders that constitutionally could stay in power until the next round of elections," said one FPM leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"That could bring six years of dealing with these Syrian-controlled guys."
Mr. Karami and his Cabinet resigned abruptly on Monday in the face of protests by tens of thousands of people, many of whom were waving red-and-white Lebanese flags yesterday near the grave of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Mr. Lahoud, who now must invite another party leader to try to form a government, met with the speaker of parliament yesterday, but the protesters like Mr. …