Posted by Joshua on Saturday, November 11th, 2006
Five pro-Syrian Shi'ite Muslim ministers from Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, resigned from Lebanon's cabinet on Saturday after the collapse of all-party talks on giving their camp more say in government.
The resignation of all the Shi'ite ministers from the 24-member Western-backed cabinet came two days before it was scheduled to discuss a draft U.N. document setting up a tribunal to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Many Lebanese blame Syria for Hariri's killing but Damascus denies involvement.
While the resignations will not bring down the government, they pose a major challenge to the majority anti-Syrian coalition in a country where the political system is based on a delicate sectarian balance….
"The two groups allied to Syria said the anti-Syrian majority had rejected their demands for a decisive say in government during week-long talks that collapsed earlier in the day.
The escalating political crisis could provoke confrontation on the streets of Beirut at a time of rising tension between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.
"Things will get worse. There will be a protest move soon," a senior political source close to Hezbollah said earlier. "The climate at today's meeting was very bad. This stand (by the anti-Syrian) majority will not pass without reaction."
"I don't know who is spreading a climate of fear and tension as if something is about to happen. Nothing will happen," said Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party in the anti-Syrian camp.
The pro-Syrian party has threatened mass demonstrations demanding new parliamentary elections unless more of its allies are admitted to the cabinet by mid-November.
Hezbollah accuses Siniora of failing to back it during the war and of supporting U.S. and Israeli demands for the disarmament of its guerillas.
The majority coalition is willing to bring in Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, but not to surrender a third of seats to the opposition. A third of ministers plus one can block motions in cabinet and automatically bring down the government by resigning.
Saniora on Saturday called for a Cabinet meeting to be held Monday to vote on the UN draft document. But in a sign of escalating tensions, pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud rejected the request.
The White House statement said one of Syria's goals was to prevent the Lebanese government from establishing an international tribunal to try those accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
"Any such effort to sideline the tribunal will fail, however, for the international community can proceed with establishing it no matter what happens internally in Lebanon," the statement said.
Jumblatt — who will have talks at the United Nations about the tribunal — said that Nasrallah's main goal is to prevent the court from being established and to "defend the Syrian regime."
Hypocrisy Watch: Rumsfeld objects to being tried for torture by international court.
Charges sought against Rumsfeld over prison abuse
By Adam Zagorin, Time, November 10, 2006
Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case a "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint.
Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri left Beirut for Tehran on Saturday after praising Iran's continued support for strengthening national unity in Beirut.