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Prime minister delays resignation

Sam F. Ghattas Associated Press

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanon’s pro-Syrian prime minister stalled in carrying out his promise to resign, prompting accusations Wednesday that he is trying to extend a political crisis and scuttle elections his camp fears it could lose.

About 3,000 people chanted “Death to America!” in a demonstration near the U.S. Embassy. The protesters, many belonging to the pro-Iranian militant group Hezbollah, said Washington should stay out of Lebanese affairs – a reference to President Bush’s push for Syria to withdraw all its troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon within the next two months.

Lebanon has been in political crisis since the Feb. 14 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. His death in a bomb blast – which the opposition blamed on Syria and its Lebanese government allies – prompted giant street protests that forced the government at the time, led by Prime Minister Omar Karami, to resign on Feb. 28.

But in a slap to the opposition, pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud brought back Karami as a caretaker to form a new government on March 10. However he has been unable to do so in the face of opposition objections.

Syria and the Lebanese government have denied any role in Hariri’s killing.

Meanwhile, France and the United States circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Wednesday that would establish a new international investigation into the assassination less than a week after a U.N. report criticized Lebanon’s own probe, saying it did not meet international standards and calling for an entirely new one by an outside team.

Still the anti-Syria opposition expects to capitalize on the popular uproar shaking Lebanon to win the ballot and end the Damascus loyalists’ majority in parliament. But a vote cannot be called until a government is created, and that process has been deadlocked for weeks.

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