Lebanon government collapses after ministers walk-out

By Asbarez | Sunday, 16 January 2011

BEIRUT (Combined Sources)—Lebanon’s coalition government collapsed Wednesday after 11 ministers affiliated with the opposition pulled out of the cabinet amid political tensions over a US-led tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of Lebanese leader Rafik al-Hariri.

The move disintegrates the year-old government led by Hariri’s son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was in Washington meeting with President Obama when the walk out resulted in the collapse, which ultimately might force his resignation.

Among the ministers that submitted resignations was industry minister Apraham Dedeyan, who was the representative of the Lebanese-Armenian community.

Tensions have mounted during the past several months as Lebanon awaited the results of the UN-led and US-backed tribunal’s investigation into the Rafik Hariri assassination. In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia and Syria have been attempting to broker a deal that would essentially force Saad Hariri to withdraw his government’s support for the tribunal in order to maintain Lebanese and regional stability.

A delegation representing Lebanon’s opposition Tuesday met with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman urging him to convene an extraordinary government session to adopt, with the participation of all political forces, measures that would ensure stability in the country. The president agreed to forge ahead by promising to contact the prime minister and bring him to the negotiating table.

On Wednesday, the presidential office reported that Saad Hariri had refused the opposition’s proposal, saying that he would not be pressured to take part in a government meeting at the 11th-hour and rejected to impede the international tribunal.

Opposition forces gathered Tuesday night at a meeting, which was attended by Reform and Progress party chairman Gen. Michel Aoun, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee chairman Hovig Mkhitarian, “Marada” movement leader and parliament member Sleyman Frenzhieh, opposition advisor Ali Hassan-Khalil and political adviser to Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hussein Khalil.

“Following our last bid to resolve matters through our call for an immediate Cabinet session and after our call was turned down by the other bloc and in order to pave the way for the formation of a new government that would be able to assume its duties in the upcoming stage, we announce our resignation from the government,” said Lebanon’s Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, who read the opposition statement Wednesday.

“The prime minister is faced with choosing either Beirut and Washington or Beirut and any other capital,” he said, adding that the decision to leave the government conforms to Lebanese law.

The White House issued a statement on the Hariri meeting, saying Obama “stressed the importance of the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a means to help end the era of political assassinations with impunity in Lebanon.”

Opposition lawmakers called on Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to act quickly on forming a new Cabinet.