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Ex-PM Forms Unity Government In Lebanon

10 March 2005 -- Lebanese President Emile Lahoud today reappointed Omar Karami to the post of prime minister and asked him to form a new government to lead the country until elections in May.

Karami called for all parties to help form what he called a "national salvation" unity government. He said "any procrastination in responding to this invitation" would lead to "destruction."

Karami, who is pro-Syrian, resigned some two weeks ago after mass protests that started after the 14 February killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Many Lebanese blame Syria for Hariri's death, although the Syrian government has denied responsibility.

Opposition Lebanese parliamentarians have demanded a pledge from Syria to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon before parliamentary elections in May.

As Syrian troops continued to pull back to eastern Lebanon, U.S. President George W. Bush demanded yesterday that Syrian intelligence agents end their "heavy-handed" influence in the Lebanese government.

Bush said the United States and its allies were considering what steps to take if Syria refuses to fully withdraw from Lebanon. Bush reiterated that a Syrian withdrawal must take place to ensure that May's elections are free.