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White House Welcomes Government Resignation in Lebanon

The Bush administration is welcoming the resignation of Lebanon's pro-Syrian prime minister, Omar Karami.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the United States is keeping a close watch on developments in Beirut. He says the resignation of Omar Karami provides a big chance for change. "The resignation of the Karami government represents an opportunity for the Lebanese people to have a new government that is truly representative of their country's diversity," he said.

The Lebanese prime minister announced his decision amid escalating protests against his government in the streets of Beirut.

Mr. McClellan told reporters the Lebanese people have spoken and their message is clear. "I think you are seeing today in Lebanon that the Lebanese people are clearly demonstrating their desire to have a free and independent future, free from outside interference," he said.

The White House spokesman said the new government will pave thefor national elections. He said those elections must take place in accordance with the Lebanese constitution and free of foreign pressure. "That means Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel need to leave the country. That will help ensure the elections are free and fair," he said.

The dramatic resignation of the Karami government came just two weeks after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The murder galvanized the opposition in Beirut, with thousands of demonstrators demanding new leadership and a withdrawal of the roughly 14,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon.