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Lebanese Protesters Push for Syria's Exit


Lebanon's opposition leaders are debating what to do next, after popular protests brought down Prime Minister Omar Karami's government, and as Syria continues to stall over removing its troops.

"What next?" asks the headline of Beirut's al Mustaqbal newspaper, amid confusion over where Lebanon's popular revolution is heading after forcing the resignation of pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami and his cabinet.

Several dozen die-hard anti-Syrian protesters marched in the streets of Beirut and Lebanon's president met the speaker of parliament for what could be the start of consultations on forming a new cabinet. Brewing underneath all the protests is the issue of Syria.

Despite international pressure, Syria has yet to remove any of its troops from Lebanon. The country first deployed troops to Lebanon in 1976, shortly after the outbreak of civil war, there. An estimated 14,000 Syrian troops are stationed in Lebanon.

Syrian President Assad is making positive noises, though, telling Time magazine that he plans to remove his troops "...maybe in the next few months." Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblatt is not satisfied with such a vague time frame, insisting that Syria provide "a more specific timetable" for its withdrawal.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders are to meet in Druze-leader Jumblatt's mountain castle fortress of Mukhtara to plot political strategy. Some of their demands include the removal of all pro-Syrian security and intelligence officials, formation of a non-partisan government to supervise free and fair parliamentary elections in May, and the resignation of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.

Mr. Lahoud's term in office was extended under pressure from Damascus, last September, despite a clause in Lebanon's constitution forbidding a president to be re-elected.

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