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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Sep 20th
Uncertainty grips Lebanon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hussein Dakroub and Hassan Lakiss, Dailystar Staff   
Thursday, 13 January 2011

Whitehouse Yesterday
Whitehouse Yesterday

Western powers accuse March 8 of subverting justice after government toppled

BEIRUT: Lebanon was plunged deeper into political turmoil Wednesday with the collapse of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s national unity Cabinet after 10 ministers from the March 8 coalition and a minister loyal to President Michel Sleiman resigned over the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Regional and world leaders expressed deep concerns over the dramatic developments, with the United States and Britain blaming Hizbullah for attempting “to subvert justice” and undermine Lebanon’s stability and security.

Energy Minister Jibran Bassil, reading the statement of the 10 ministers’ resignations at a news conference, called on Sleiman to quickly launch parliamentary consultations to form a new government.

Later, Minister of State Adnan Sayyed Hussein, close to Sleiman, said in a statement he was stepping down after “political differences” had threatened unity among Cabinet members.

Under the Constitution, the resignation of one-third plus one of Cabinet members automatically leads to the collapse of the 30-member government.

The resignations came as Hariri was meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington to discuss the Lebanese crisis over the S.T.L., which is probing the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri did not speak to reporters after the talks with Obama and left the U.S. for France, where he is expected to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday.

A White House statement said Obama and Hariri vowed to pursue stability and justice in Lebanon. It said the actions by Hizbullah “only demonstrate their own fear and determination to block the government’s ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the Lebanese people.”

“The president and prime minister expressed their determination to achieve both stability and justice in Lebanon during this challenging period of government volatility, and agreed that all parties should avoid threats or actions that could cause instability,” the statement said. Obama commended Hariri “for his steadfast leadership and efforts to reach peace, stability, and consensus in Lebanon under difficult circumstances.”

Following the ministers’ resignations, a senior March 8 source told The Daily Star that the March 8 coalition has a majority in the 128-member Parliament, which enables it to go ahead with naming a candidate of its own for prime minister during the president’s binding parliamentary consultations.

A presidential statement is expected to be issued Thursday accepting the ministers’ resignation and asking the Cabinet to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed, a political source said. Sleiman will also issue another statement setting a date for binding consultations with legislators on the appointment of a new prime minister, the source said. He added that Sleiman showed “understanding” toward Sayyed Hussein’s resignation.

It was the first time in Lebanon’s politically turbulent history that a government collapsed under pressure of the resignations of one-third plus one of its members.

The ministers’ resignations were part of the March 8 coalition’s escalatory steps after Sleiman and Hariri failed to meet the coalition’s demand for an immediate Cabinet session to end Lebanon’s cooperation with the S.T.L.

The March 8 ministers had given Sleiman and Hariri a Wednesday morning deadline to call for a Cabinet session to stop payment of Lebanon’s share toward the financing of the STL, withdraw the Lebanese judges from the tribunal, end cooperation with the STL, and prosecute the “false witnesses” linked to the UN probe into Rafik Hariri’s killing.

Hizbullah and its March 8 allies have for long been urging Hariri to disavow the S.T.L. on the grounds it is part of a U.S.-Israeli plot aimed at targeting the resistance.

The resignations of the 11 ministers came a day after the March 8 coalition declared that Saudi-Syrian efforts have failed to break Lebanon’s months-long political stalemate over the S.T.L.’s impending indictment, which is widely expected to implicate some Hizbullah members in Hariri’s killing, raising fears of sectarian strife.

The ministers’ resignations came after they met at the residence of Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun at Rabieh, north of Beirut.

Reading a statement after the meeting on behalf of the 10 March 8 ministers, Bassil said the ministers “regret that opportunities to ensure the success of these efforts, spare Lebanon any attempt to undermine its stability and protect it from strife have been wasted.”

He blamed Washington for the Saudi-Syrian efforts reaching a dead end. “The other side bowed to external, especially American pressure, ignoring the advice and wishes of the Saudi and Syrian sides,” Bassil said.

He added that after the demand for a Cabinet session went unanswered, the ministers tendered their resignations in order to set the stage for “a new government capable of shouldering responsibility of the next stage and carrying out its duties to maintain stability, ward off dangers and ensure real justice.”

“The ministers hope the president will quickly take necessary measures for the formation of a new government,” Bassil said.

Marjayoun M.P. Ali Hassan Khalil of Speaker Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc who attended the Rabieh meeting described the ministers’ resignations as “a pure political process,” adding: “We want to be more keen than those who served in the Cabinet for a long time but did not maintain the logic of national accord.”

M.P.s who met Berri Wednesday quoted him as saying that the Saudi-Syrian settlement was in favor of all Lebanese factions. He was quoted as saying that the Saudi and Syrian leaders were honest in reaching a solution for the Lebanese crisis “but it seemed that the Big Powers’ game was bigger [than them].”

Labor Minister Butros Harb, from the March 14 coalition, said the resignations of the 11 ministers have further complicated the country’s political crisis. “There is no room for compromise over the issue of the tribunal. Because we are keen on the country, we announce that we are open to dialogue [with the March 8 camp],” Harb told a news conference following a meeting of the March 14 coalition.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Lebanon’s Cabinet crisis was a transparent attempt to subvert justice, but vowed that the STL’s work would go on.

“We view what happened today as a transparent effort by those forces inside Lebanon, as well as interests outside Lebanon, to subvert justice and undermine Lebanon’s stability and progress,” Clinton told a joint news conference in Doha, Qatar, with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.

“The work of the Special Tribunal must go forward so justice can be served and impunity ended,” Clinton said. “Lebanon needs now to rally behind its own interests. The Lebanese people need to get beyond political party. It’s not political parties that would be put on trial, it’s individuals.”

Sheikh Hamad said Qatar had no plans to mediate as it has in previous Lebanese political crises, but added that the Gulf region hoped the Syrian-Saudi initiative to find a solution could still move forward. “We still hope that there will be a solution which will prevent Lebanon from slipping into conflicts of any sort,” Hamad said.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=123602#ixzz1AutUEmWL
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

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