Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Crisis in Beirut after US blocked Saudi-Syrian deal over Hariri-Tribunal
The Hezbollah movement has brought down the Lebanese goverment over the verdict of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the casde of the murder of Rafiq Hariri, the father of the present prime minister Saad Hariri. This verdict is expected at the beginning of next week.
Eleven ministers from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and its political allies have resigned Wednesday afternoon, which automatically brought about the fall of the whole cabinet. The toppling of the government came a day after Lebanese politicians said Saudi Arabia and Syria had failed to forge a deal to contain tensions over a U.N.-backed tribunal which is expected to indict Hezbollah members over the killing of Hariri's father.Hezbollah has denied any role in the 2005 assassination. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has attacked the tribunal as an 'Israeli project' and urged Hariri to renounce it, a demand the Sunni Muslim premier has resisted.
The stalemate has crippled Hariri's 14-month-old 'unity' government. The cabinet has met, briefly, just once in the last two months and the government failed to get parliamentary approval for the 2010 budget.
Tensions over the tribunal, which is expected to issue draft indictments this month, have exacerbated existing rifts between Hariri, who is supported by Western powers and Saudi Arabia, and Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria.
Analysts said the resignations could set the stage for protracted political turmoil in Lebanon, which has endured a series of crises since Rafiq al-Hariri's killing, including car bombings and sectarian street fighting in Beirut in 2008.
Hariri was due to meet President Barack Obama in Washington around the time of the planned resignation announcement. The American president earlier called the Saudi king Abdullah.
Gebran Bassil, a Christian government minister allied to Hezbollah, said Hariri had rejected demands for an urgent session of cabinet to discuss Hezbollah's insistence that Lebanon withdraw all cooperation with the special tribunal. 'The grace period has ended, and the waiting stage that we lived through without any result has ended,' he told Reuters.
Hezbollah minister Mohammad Fneish on Tuesday blamed the United States for obstructing attempts by Riyadh and Damascus to find a solution. 'There were Arab efforts that gave us the chance to work positively... These efforts have not worked because of American intervention,' he said. Political scientist Hilal Khashan said Washington had vetoed the Saudi-Syrian initiative and there was little prospect of a new government being formed quickly. He said Hezbollah was unlikely to repeat the events of May 2008, when gunmen took over Beirut in protest over government steps against the Shi'ite militant movement, but he did not rule out demonstrations.
Beirut's bourse fell 3.22 percent in response to the political turmoil, with shares in market heavyweight Solidere, which has led the reconstruction of Beirut since the 1975-1990 civil war, dropping as much as 8.0 percent. The sell off of shares was contributed to the fact that the Saudi-Syrian was blocked.