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February 23, 2005


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Lebanese business leaders plan strike to demand government resign

BEIRUT, Feb 23 (AFP) - Leaders of Lebanon's banking, industrial and commercial sectors said they would shut down next Monday to demand the country's pro-Syrian government resign and that a "neutral" one replace it.

The strike would coincide with an expected vote of confidence in parliament, two weeks after the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri in a bomb blast for which the opposition has pinned blame on the government and its Syrian backers.

"The economic authorities call for the formation of a new and neutral government which has the people's support, and the trust of the international community and Arab countries," the private sector said in a statement carried by the official news agency ANI.

The statement called for a "total shutout in memory of Rafiq Hariri", the father of Lebanon's post-warreconstruction, on February 28, and backed calls for an international investigation of his assassination.

It was signed by Lebanon's association of banks and industrialists as well as the chambers of commerce and industry.

"The economic authorities believe that restoration of the democratic regime is an essential condition to establish confidence in the Lebanese economy," the statement said.

Beleaguered Prime Minister Omar Karameh said earlier Wednesday that he was ready to quit in the face of intense pressure to end Syrian domination of his country and find Hariri's killers.
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