As Syria exits Beirut, can a pro-Syrian president remain?
Lahoud under pressure as Syria finished the first phase of its pullout Thursday.
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Still, Karami has declared that he will resign again if he is unable to create a government of national unity which includes members of the opposition.Skip to next paragraph
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But the opposition is refusing to negotiate with Karami until its list of seven demands are fulfilled. The main demands are an international investigation into Hariri's murder, the departure of all Syrian forces from Lebanon, and the dismissal of Adnan Adoum, the state prosecutor, along with the chiefs of six Lebanese intelligence and security services.
General Sayyed's stated readiness to appear along with his colleagues before a judge was interpreted by some opposition figures Thursday as preparation for the installation of a military government.
"Sayyed has no right to make such statements as head of the Sureté Générale [national police]. The violation of his duty as a state security official actually heralds a military coup with President Lahoud's blessing," said Walid Ido, a member of Hariri's parliamentary bloc.
General Sayyed is a close ally of Lahoud, who was commander of the Lebanese Army before being elected president in 1998.
Both sides have dug in their heels and show little sign of compromising. Some analysts say that although Lahoud appears determined to retain the presidency, his position is weakening. "I don't think his position is tenable," says Farid Khazen, professor of politics at the American University of Beirut. "I think we are reaching the stage where he will have to step down at some point."
One of the few voices charting a compromise course between the pro-Syrian loyalist and opposition camps is Salim Hoss, a veteran Lebanese politician and former prime minister. On Wednesday, Mr. Hoss joined opposition calls for the removal of the top security chiefs, but says he draws the line when it comes to the president. "I think this is carrying things too far," he says. "There is no way out except through a government of national unity with everyone included. Otherwise the impasse will continue and whoever fails to cooperate will be responsible."
But the opposition says it is too late to compromise with Lahoud and believes it has the support of the overwhelming public to push forward its demands. It is encouraged also by the support of the international community, particularly the Bush administration.
Indeed, one of the more bizarre outcomes of the crisis is the friendly cooperation between Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze community and the most outspoken opposition figure, and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense.
In November 2003, the State Department revoked Mr. Jumblatt's diplomatic visa to visit the US after he called Mr. Wolfowitz a "virus" that needed to be destroyed and stated his regret that the deputy secretary of Defense had survived a rocket attack on his hotel while visiting Baghdad.
Professor Mallat, who is acting as an intermediary between the two men to coordinate an effort to usher in a genuine democracy to Lebanon, says recent developments in Lebanon and the elections in Iraq spurred Jumblatt's change of heart.
"Jumblatt recognizes that the Americans have a role in democracy in Lebanon and the Middle East," he says. "And although he disapproves, as I do, the way Iraq was handled initially, he realizes that now is the moment where the convergence of America and democracy in Lebanon and the region is welcome."