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Lebanon’s President Rejects Withdrawal of Cabinet

September 2, 1988

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ President Amin Gemayel blocked a move Friday to reinstate a Moslem-led Cabinet in an action that could enable him to put a Maronite Christian in charge.

Immediately after the announcement by the presidential office Christian and Moslem militiamen clashed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and 106-mm recoilless cannons across Beirut’s dividing Green Line, police said. There was no immediate report of casualties.

Gemayel rejected the move earlier in the day by Acting Prime Minister Salim Hoss to withdrew his Cabinet’s resignation. Hoss said he was withdrawing the resignation to avert a power vacuum if Parliament fails to elect a new president in the next three weeks.

″We inform you that we have withdrawn the Cabinet’s resignation, which had been announced by the late Premier Rashid Karami,″ Hoss, a Sunni Moslem, said in a letter to the Christian president.

Karami, also a Sunni, was killed in a helicopter bomb explosion June 1, 1987, 28 days after he announced the resignation of his half-Moslem, half- Christian Cabinet.

After Karami’s assassination Gemayel named Hoss acting prime minister of the caretaker Cabinet.

The presidential palace issued a communique Friday rejecting Hoss’ move. The move would leave Gemayel free to name a new interim Cabinet led by a Christian if no new president is in place before his term ends later this month.

The developments came during a crisis between pro-Syrian leftists, Moslem factions and right-wing Christians over the election of a new president. When the Cabinet initially announced its resignation it accused Gemayel of leaning too much toward Israel.

Parliament failed Aug. 18 to muster the needed quorum of 51 members to elect a president. Syrian-backed warlord Suleiman Franjieh, 78, was the only serious contender.

Franjieh’s backers have accused the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces militia of forcefully preventing deputies from attending the parliamentary session.

The Lebanese Forces denied the charge and said the boycotters opposed Franjieh’s candidacy.

A Lebanese Forces spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has said: ″There will be no quorum as long as Franjieh remains a candidate.″

Parliament Speaker Hussein Husseini, a Shiite Moslem, adjourned the Aug. 18 session without setting the date for a new meeting to elect a head of state.

The independent daily paper An-Nahar said Gemayel would form an interim Cabinet headed by a Maronite Catholic if no president was elected by Sept. 23, when his six-year term expires.

Hoss’ move also appeared designed to block such an attempt by Gemayel.

According to an unwritten national covenant dating to Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943, the president should be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the house speaker a Shiite Moslem.

″The formation of a new Cabinet in the present critical political situation would lead to risky consequences,″ Hoss said in his letter to Gemayel.

He said the formation of a Cabinet headed by a Maronite prime minister would derail the presidential elections.

Lebanon’s Syrian-backed Moslem and leftist factions also have told Gemayel not to form a Christian-headed Cabinet. It said such a move would rekindle the 13-year-old civil war, which has claimed more than 130,000 lives.

Syria is the main power broker in Lebanon. It maintains 40,000 troops in eastern and northern provinces as well as west and south Beirut.

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