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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-322897 CQ Karami Resignation (L)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=2/28/2005

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=CQ KARAMI RESIGNATION (L)

NUMBER=2-322897

BYLINE=EDWARD YERANIAN

DATELINE=BEIRUT

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

///EDS: REISSUED. IN LAST GRAF. OF TEXT CHANGES "BEIRUT" TO "LEBANON".///

HEADLINE: Lebanese PM Resigns Amid Protests

INTRO: Tens of thousands of protesters, waving red and white Lebanese flags, began screaming with joy after Lebanon's prime minister announced his resignation following a day of stormy parliamentary debates. For VOA, Edward Yeranian reports from Beirut:

TEXT:

/// SFX: DEMONSTRATORS SCREAMING FREEDOM, SOVEREIGNTY, INDEPENDENCE//

A delirious crowd of tens of thousands of screaming demonstrators began chanting "freedom, sovereignty and independence" after hearing word that Lebanon's pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami had resigned.

Mr. Karami told Lebanon's parliament, after two stormy sessions of debate, that his government was quitting, in a move that took many by surprise.

"I will not stand in the way of those that are seeking the best interests of this country," Karami said. "Therefore, my government is resigning."

Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, another close ally of neighboring Syria, was reported to have shouted at Mr. Karami that he "did not have the right to resign without first letting him know."

Outgoing Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh, visibly caught off guard by Mr. Karami's surprise resignation, told the press "he would gladly pass his job on to someone else, and that he was glad he was not responsible for any bloodshed."

Mr. Franjieh had imposed a curfew, banning anti-government demonstrations, today, but Lebanese army troops allowed tens of thousands of mostly young protesters to gather in Beirut's city center, anyway.

///SFX: DEMONSTRATORS SHOUTING SYRIA GO HOME///

Immediately following the government's resignation, influential journalist Jibrane Tueni, told ecstatic demonstrators that the opposition would not stop until, in his words, "Syria removed its troops from Lebanon."

Both the U.S. and France have told Syria it must apply UN resolution 1559 and remove its troops from Lebanon.

Another opposition leader, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, told Lebanon's LBCI television, that he was "pleased the opposition had brought down the government, but that he did not wish to inflict defeat or humiliation on Syria."

Syria first sent troops to Lebanon in 1976, several months after the outbreak of civil war, there. Damascus still has an estimated 14 thousand troops stationed in Lebanon. (SIGNED)

NEB/EY/MEM



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