Lebanese president accepts prime minister’s resignation


By Zeina Karam, AP

BEIRUT–Lebanese President Michel Suleiman formally accepted on Saturday the resignation of the prime minister, who stepped down blaming government infighting during a time of rising sectarian tensions.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati submitted his written resignation to the president after announcing he was stepping down the day before, taking the nation by surprise. Suleiman asked that his government assume a caretaking role while a new government is being formed.

Mikati’s unexpected resignation throws the country into uncertainty at a critical time and threatens to leave a void in the state’s highest ranks amid sporadic violence enflamed by the civil war in neighboring Syria.

It opens the way for what is expected to be prolonged political jockeying as parliamentary blocs try to build a majority coalition to choose a new prime minister.

“I hope that this resignation will provide an opening in the existing deadlock and pave the way for a (political) solution,” he said, following his meeting with Suleiman Saturday.

Mikati has been prime minister since June 2011, heading a government dominated by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies, many of whom have a close relationship with Syria.

He stepped down Friday to protest the parliament’s inability to agree on a law to govern elections set for later this year, as well as the refusal by Hezbollah and its allies in the cabinet to extend the tenure of the country’s police chief, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, who at 58 is about to hit the mandatory retirement age for his rank.