Omar Karami, Prime Minister, died at 81

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rt546345w4erfsdfPrime Minister of Lebanon Omar Abdul Hamid Karami died on January 1, 2015 at the age of 81.

He was Prime Minister for the first time from 24 December 1990, when Selim al-Hoss gave up power, until 13 May 1992, when he resigned due to economic instability.

He was again Prime Minister from October 2004 to April 2005.

He was the son of former Prime Minister and independence hero Abdul Hamid Karami.

He was the brother of Arab nationalist the eight-time Prime Minister and major Lebanese statesman, Rashid Karami, who was assassinated in 1987.

Due to the assassination of ex-prime minister Hariri on 14 February 2005, members of the opposition blamed Syria for the assassination, and demanded Syria withdraw its troops and intelligence personnel from Lebanon. Protests grew in Beirut despite an official ban on public protests, and the opposition planned to call for a no confidence vote.

Amid the growing pressure, Karami announced on 28 February 2005 that his government would resign, although it remained temporarily in a caretaker role.

He was 70 when he returned as premier in 2004. The incumbent, Rafik Hariri, had resigned when Syria unconstitutionally extended the tenure of the Lebanese president, Émile Lahoud.

Karami, by contrast, rejected criticism of Syrian interference in Lebanon, and particularly opposed UN resolution 1559, an American and French-inspired initiative that aimed to disarm the Shia Hezbollah militia and force Syria’s army out of Lebanon.

Karami was born in An Nouri, near the northern port of Tripoli, into a leading Sunni Muslim dynasty.

For 400 years Karamis had provided Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, with its muftis (religious leaders) and zuama (traditional oligarchs).

Their local authority often extended to the national arena: one in four Lebanese is a Sunni and the national pact negotiated at independence in 1943 vouchsafed for the Sunni community the office of prime minister.

Karami’s father, Abdul Hamid Karami, served briefly as prime minister in 1945, and his brother, Rashid, began the first of eight stints as premier in 1955.

Karami studied law at Cairo University and the American University of Beirut.

After 1956 he worked as a lawyer and local enforcer for his brother. From 1991 he represented Tripoli in parliament, and was re-elected in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

He highlighted corruption where other politicians shunned the issue.

Gamely (if unsuccessfully) he introduced austerity measures in 1991-92 and reopened the port of Beirut.

He disputed certain Syrian edicts and attacked successive presidents for wielding excessive power.

He recreated a cross-sectarian national army, and pursued the delicate negotiations that ultimately saw all western hostages released by June 1992.

Perhaps his greatest triumph was the disarming of Lebanon’s militias – with the exception of Hezbollah and the South Lebanon Army.

He was replaced by Najib Mikati in the post. This resignation added to the turmoil already prevalent in Lebanon since Hariri’s assassination as now there was no government to call the elections which were due that upcoming May.

Karami did not run for office in the 2005 general elections.

 


 

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