table to settle their difference peacefully . Street and demonstrations, never solve crises . Lebanon unity success is Arab Unity success . We have all have the duty to help Lebanon to get out peacefully of its crises . But we must move urgently as time runs short.
Talks Collapse in Lebanon as Shiites Vacate the Cabinet
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
Published: November 12, 2006
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 11 — Lebanon was thrown into a political crisis Saturday when talks broke down over giving the militant faction Hezbollah and its political allies greater control of the government. Almost immediately, cabinet ministers from the group and the other main Shiite party resigned.
Lebanon’s political leaders have held talks for four days, trying to defuse tensions among the various government factions after Hezbollah demanded a greater role in the cabinet and called for its alliance to have veto power over all government decisions. Hezbollah was politically emboldened after its 34-day war with Israel this summer, and it quickly pressed for more power.
Though for days it appeared the talks were headed toward a compromise, the negotiations collapsed when Hezbollah refused to relinquish its demand for a veto, people in the talks said. When the governing coalition refused, the talks collapsed, and within three hours the political brinksmanship began with all of the Shiite ministers resigning.
Under the accord that ended the civil war, called the Taif Agreement and signed in 1989, the government must include members from all the country’s main sects. With the departure of the Shiites, it now becomes an interim government with the authority only to handle day-to-day management of the country.
“It is an escalation,” said Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at American University of Beirut. “They are telling them they are willing to stage confrontations.”
Lebanon’s political stability, and the success or failure of the sitting government, is not just consequential for this country of four million. It is part of a broader contest between the United States, which backs the government coalition, and Iran and Syria, which support Hezbollah.
One of the crucial decisions coming up, and one that cannot be addressed by an interim government, is whether to approve a law to participate in an international tribunal on the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. The investigation into the killing has implicated Syrian officials. And on Friday, the United Nations Security Council presented Lebanon with a draft proposal for a framework of a tribunal to pursue the case.
“The reason behind the resignation is the international tribunal,” said Akram Chehayeb, a member of Parliament who belongs to the governing coalition, adding that the pro-Syrian parties had hoped Russia would have altered the proposal to their liking.
In a joint statement, the two main Shiite parties, Amal and Hezbollah, said their ministers had resigned because the government had entered the talks with conditions.
“We will not go along with anything that we are not convinced with and would damage the higher national interest,” the statement said.
Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, had threatened to stage street demonstrations aimed at bringing down the American-backed government if his alliance’s demands for greater power were not met by Monday. After the talks collapsed, Sheik Nasrallah’s deputy, Sheik Naim Qassem, said at a news conference that his group would study what happened and might decide to demonstrate.
“What we are going to do is study very carefully what happened today, and we will take the appropriate decision,” Mr. Qassem said. “Either we will wait with little patience, to give a chance for the talks to come up with a result if such a chance is available, or we will discuss with our allies the program of our protests, which will be wide, God willing.”
Not longer after, the ministers resigned, and officials from the governing coalition were saying that if Hezbollah took to the streets, its supporters might as well.
Shortly after talks began, it appeared that the sides would be able to find a compromise. One proposal was to bring Hezbollah’s main ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, into the government without granting veto power. One particular fear among members of the governing coalition was that with veto power, Hezbollah could paralyze the government and block the adoption of the international tribunal.
Former President Amine Gemayel, leader of the small Christian Phalange party, said Saturday that the mood in the room during the negotiations was “cold, very cold.” He said that the governing coalition was adamant about not giving Hezbollah the one-third plus one seats it would need for veto power. “They are still insisting on having the third of the government,” Mr. Gemayel said Saturday after leaving the negotiations. “It is a way in fact to control completely the government and the very existence of the government.”