x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Led by Hezbollah, 11 Lebanese ministers resign

The unity government collapsed on Wednesday after the walkout over a troubled UN probe into the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

BEIRUT // Lebanon's unity government collapsed on Wednesday after 11 ministers led by Hezbollah and its allies resigned over a troubled UN probe into the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement -- the key Christian ally of Shiite Hezbollah -- announced the resignation of 10 ministers of an alliance led by the militant group.

"The ministers ... gathered here today announce their resignation from government and urge the president to begin necessary procedure to form a new government," Bassil said at a press conference.

The announcement came just as Prime Minister Saad Hariri -- son of the slain leader -- was meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama on the crisis.

An 11th minister close to President Michel Sleiman, State Minister Adnan Sayyed Hussein, tendered his resignation immediately after the announcement, thus providing the minimum necessary number of resignations to topple the government.

Bassil said the ministers from the 30-strong cabinet had tendered their resignations because of a long-running dispute with Prime Minister Hariri over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

The STL is set to indict senior Hezbollah members in connection with Rafiq Hariri's 2005 assassination, a scenario the militant party vehemently rejects.

Bassil accused the premier of having obstructed government function and caving into pressure from the United States. The Lebanese government had not met in months amid an escalating rift over the STL.