Tuesday 1 March 2005

So soon?

This is all happening so much more quickly that I expected. And I thought I was one of the optimists.

Great news:

The Lebanese government abruptly resigned Monday during a stormy parliamentary debate, prompting a tremendous roar from tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in central Beirut.

The demonstrators, awash in a sea of red, white and green Lebanese flags, had demanded the pro-Syrian government's resignation -- and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon -- since this month's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Demonstrators in Beirut's Martyrs Square chanted, "Syria out! Syria out!" after Prime Minister Omar Karami announced his resignation in a speech aired by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.


J. Adam Ereli, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said the United States shared "the Lebanese people's desire for the extension of Lebanese sovereignty over all of Lebanon's territory and the disarming of militias and the conduct of elections, parliamentary and otherwise that are free fair and transparent and are not marred by intimidation and violence."

He added: "There's a constitutional process in Lebanon, we have every expectation that that constitutional process will be followed and that a new government will be able to fulfill the desires and the wishes of the people of Lebanon as they have been expressing them so eloquently for the past several weeks."

Students of diplomatese will see that that's some bloody strong language there. It's about as close to saying to the Syrians "Get out of Lebanon or else" as anyone in the State Department is ever likely to get. And it's great to hear.

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter isn't a professional diplomat, so he puts it a little more bluntly:

"I think Syria is in deep trouble, unless they make big changes, and right away."

Great news.

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