Hezbollah forces Lebanon govt collapse

Lebanon`s unity government collapsed after the powerful Hezbollah and its allies resigned from the cabinet over a UN probe into the assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Updated: Jan 13, 2011, 00:07 AM IST

Beirut: Lebanon`s unity government
collapsed on Wednesday after the powerful Hezbollah and its allies
resigned from the cabinet over a UN probe into the
assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Energy Minister Gebran Bassil told a press conference
that 10 ministers from the 30-member cabinet had tendered
their resignations because of a long-running dispute with
Prime Minister Saad Hariri -- son of the slain leader -- over
the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The announcement by Bassil, a member of the Christian
Free Patriotic Movement close to Hezbollah, came just as
Hariri was meeting in Washington with US President Barack
Obama on the crisis.

An 11th minister close to President Michel Sleiman
also quit today, thus providing the number of resignations
needed to topple the government.

The Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its allies
have for months been pressing Hariri to disavow the STL on the
grounds that it is part of a US-Israeli plot.

Hezbollah`s camp, which is backed by Iran and Syria,
yesterday gave the Western-backed Hariri until today to
convene a cabinet meeting on the tribunal.

According to unconfirmed press reports, the STL is
poised to indict senior Hezbollah members in connection with
Rafiq Hariri`s 2005 assassination, a scenario the militant
party vehemently rejects.

Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal, who is close to
Hariri, said Hezbollah`s decision to quit the government
was aimed at paralysing the state and forcing the premier to
reject the tribunal.