Lebanon PM stays on after bombing at president's request

Lebanon PM stays on after bombing at president's request

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Lebanon PM stays on after bombing at presidents request

AFP Photo

Lebanon's premier, under intense political fire over a deadly car bombing in the capital, said after an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday he had agreed to stay in office in the national interest.

"I assured the president of the republic (Michel Sleiman) that I was not attached to the post as head of the government," Najib Mikati told a news conference.

"He asked that I stay in place because it is not a personal issue but one of the national interest." President Michel Sleiman requested that the prominent Sunni figure stay on to avoid a "political vacuum" and said he would consult the main political forces in the country before taking any decision, Mikati said.

"This is why I suspended any decision, until the president communicates his decision to me," said Mikati.

An official in the president's office told AFP that Mikati "had not resigned but had expressed to the president his intention to do so." "The decision was suspended pending the meeting of the National Dialogue," which is scheduled for November 12, but "could be moved up in the calendar" by the president, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Friday assassination of police intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan, who blamed Damascus for a series of political assassinations including that of former premier Rafiq Hariri, has shaken the country's fragile political structure.

The opposition immediately accused the Syrian regime of masterminding the attack and called for the resignation of the government, where the Shiite Hezbollah movement, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, plays a dominant role.