Hezbollah-led effort topples government

Jan. 12, 2011 at 1:43 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Hezbollah announced Wednesday its Cabinet ministers joined opposition leaders in resigning from government amid political tensions over an assassination probe.

Ten members of the Lebanese opposition joined Hezbollah's lawmakers in a walk out Wednesday that effectively toppled the coalition government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington during the resignations.

Gebran Bassil, the country's energy minister for the opposition March 8 alliance, read a statement on behalf of opposition ministers.

"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," he was quoted Hezbollah's al-Manar news service as saying.

The resignations followed months of talks led by Syria and Saudi Arabia meant to avert a political crisis stemming from the findings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the 2005 slaying of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hezbollah called on the prime minister to distance himself from the tribunal, describing the investigation as an Israeli project meant to discredit the Shiite resistance movement. Hezbollah is widely expected to be named by the STL when it releases its findings, though Hezbollah leaders are said to have evidence linking Israel to the plot.

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.

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