BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 18 – Political leaders trying to form a new government in the wake of the past month’s upheavals said today that negotiations had stalled, raising the possibility that nationwide elections scheduled for this spring might have to be postponed. Allies of the pro-Syrian government and the opposition said the two sides disagreed on a number of important issues, including a demand by opposition leaders for an internationally supervised investigation into the murder of Rafik Hariri, who was killed by a car bomb Feb. 14.Opposition leaders, who have been galvanized by a huge outpouring of public support since Mr. Hariri’s death, said they were still waiting for a response to a list of demands they presented two days ago to the caretaker government of Omar Karami. Mr. Karami, leader of the pro-Syrian government, resigned under pressure earlier this month but was asked to return by the Parliament.


Following days of huge street demonstrations – most of them demanding the withdrawal of Mr. Karami’s Syrian benefactors from the country – Mr. Karami said he would be willing only to form a “national unity” government that included members of the opposition.

Earlier this week, opposition leader presented Mr. Karami with a list of three demands that they said had to be met before they would agree to join, or even support, a government run by him. Those were the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country, a United Nations-led investigation into Mr. Hariri’s death, and the ouster of a half-dozen senior members of the country’s intelligence and security services, which many Lebanese believe are under the control of the Syrian government.

Both the Syrian government and the Lebanese security services are widely suspected here of having had a role in Mr. Hariri’s death.

Some opposition members have added as a fourth condition the resignation of President Émile Lahoud, who is widely viewed here as doing the bidding of the Syrian government and the security services.

Opposition leaders accused Mr. Karami of dragging out the negotiations in order to postpone the parliamentary elections that must be held by the end of May.

“They haven’t seriously started a dialogue, they are taking their time,” said Boutros Harb, an opposition leader, referring to Mr. Karami’s government. “They want to postpone the elections until conditions are better for them.”

Under Lebanese law, the date for elections needs to be set at least one month before the mandate of the current Parliament expires May 31.

For their part, allies of the government agreed that postponing the elections might be necessary. But they accused the opposition of stonewalling, in part because they believe they enjoy the firm backing of the American government.

Bassem Yamout, a pro-Syrian member of Parliament, said that if the current negotiations did not succeed by the middle of next month, then the current caretaker regime presided over by Mr. Karami would not have the legal authority to call for elections. That would mean, he said, that the current Parliament would have to extend its mandate until a deal on a new government could be struck.

The real problem, he said, was that members of the opposition, emboldened by the demonstrations, do not want to join in a government with members of the current government, lest they lose their credibility in the eyes of many Lebanese.

“They don’t want to go into a national unity government, because it would break their momentum in the streets,” Dr. Yamout said, referring to the opposition.

The impasse raises the prospect of continued political turmoil, as the legally mandated date for the election approaches, and before the complete withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country.