updated 3/30/2005 5:50:08 AM ET 2005-03-30T10:50:08

Lebanon’s pro-Syrian president and embattled caretaker Prime Minister Omar Karami met Wednesday, but the premier postponed a widely anticipated announcement he is giving up his efforts to form a new Cabinet, saying he will quit after meeting pro-government groups later this week.

Karami’s announcement came a day after Syria promised for the first time it will withdraw its troops completely from Lebanon before general elections in Lebanon scheduled to take place starting next month. The anti-Syrian opposition accused authorities of stalling, saying they want neither a new Cabinet nor parliamentary elections.

“I made a promise that if I reach a dead end, I will go back to Ein Tineh Gathering,” Karami said, referring to pro-government factions in remarks after meeting President Emile Lahoud. “And I have informed the president that after Ein Tineh’s meeting I will call his excellency to officially inform him of my decision to step down.”

Karami’s announcement that he may bow out followed a deadlock over forming the government, which must be completed before parliamentary elections can be held. Elections must be held before the May 31 expiration of the current legislature’s mandate, and the opposition — which is expected to win them — is eager to see them held on time.

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 allies in Lebanon — prompted giant street protests that forced the government at the time, led by Karami, to resign on Feb. 28.

Syria and the Lebanese government have denied any role in the killing. In a slap to the opposition, pro-Syrian Lahoud brought back Karami to form a new government on March 10.

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