Lebanon's prime minister steps down

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MARCO WERMAN: Afghanistan also has big political problems at the moment. The country is still sorting the results of presidential elections last month. The vote and the count have been marred by allegations of fraud. It's unclear when the post electoral dust will settle in Kabul. It may be a while. It's already been a while since elections last June in Lebanon and that country is no closer to forming a government. Today the man who led the winning coalition gave up on the task. From Beirut The World's Aaron Schachter explains what happened.

AARON SCHACHTER: Lebanon's prime minister designate was until today Saad Hariri. His Saudi and US-backed coalition won at the polls in June. His talks about forming a unity government with the Syrian and Iranian Hezbollah block didn't go well. Hence Hariri's announcement today.


SCHACHTER: Hariri apologized to Lebanon's president for not being able to form a government and said he hoped his decision to throw in the towel would benefit the country. The country's president will now start consultations with lawmakers to name a new prime minister designate. Hariri spent three months trying to put together a unity cabinet which he presented this week. Hezbollah called Hariri's proposal inappropriate and unhelpful. Hariri bemoaned what he called constant obstructions. Lebanese politician Misbah al Ahdab is a Hariri supporter. He says what's happening is absurd given that Hariri's coalition won last June's elections.

MISBAH AL AHDAB: We have the majority. We have people's support � people went to these elections against all the pressure that has been done against them and gave us a clear message saying that we would like to have a state.

SCHAHCTER: Hariri and his allies won 71 out of 128 seats in the Lebanese parliament. Theoretically Hariri doesn't need the opposition to form a government. But this is a place, as some say, where those with the guns call the shots and Hezbollah is armed to the teeth and backed by powerful friends in the region.

FARID CHEDID: The situation in Lebanon is not controlled by the Lebanese.

SCHACHTER: Farid Chedid is editor of the news site Lebanon Wire dot com. He says it's hard to figure out these days who's pulling what strings in Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, once staunch adversaries, are now getting along. And that may have angered Iran, Hezbollah's main backer. Or Saudi Arabia may be upset that the US and Syria are becoming closer. Or perhaps even the US is peeved at the Saudi-Syrian thaw in relations. Chedid says things could get really ugly.

CHEDID: It's a new civil war. You might even say that it will be heading to an Iraq-type conflict.

SCHACHTER: A new civil war or even an Iraq-type conflict those are the worst case scenarios. Chedid concedes Hariri's resignation is more likely a political tactic intended to pressure the opposition. Many here expect Lebanon's president to reappoint Hariri as prime minister designate and give him another shot at forming a government. Besides, it's still early days by Lebanese standards. In 1969 Prime Minister Rashid Karami took nine months to form a government. For The World I'm Aaron Schachter in Beirut.