channels in Lebanon . Lebanon is the most Arab country who sacrificed for Palestine not only to accept them on his land, but also went on wars for Palestine . Arabs must help Lebanon for peaceful settlement of its crises, but never to go back in civil wars. It is a big shame for Arabs .
Lebanon on the brink of disaster
NADIM LADKI IN
LEBANON'S political crisis deepened dramatically yesterday as a depleted cabinet approved draft United Nations plans for a tribunal to try suspects in the killing of the former prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri.
Six pro-Syrian ministers resigned, but sources said the Western-backed government of the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, would return the draft to New York and wait for the final text on the special court.
Here we are today on the road to revealing the truth and achieving justice through the court that will be formed to stop this series of terrorist and criminal acts," Mr Siniora said.
The resignation by pro-Syrian Hezbollah ministers and their allies brought to a head a crisis in Lebanon that has grown steadily worse since Mr Hariri's killing in February last year. It escalated further after Israel's war on Lebanon.
The approval of the draft follows deadlocked talks over Hezbollah's demands for a greater say in government, and political tension that threatens to spill into street confrontations. Hezbollah, the most powerful group in Lebanon, and its allies see the tribunal as a tool to punish Syria.
Mr Hariri was killed with 22 others in a suicide lorry bombing in February 2005. The assassination sparked huge protests against Syria, which was widely seen as culpable. Syria denied involvement, but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence.
An investigative UN commission has implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian security officials. In October last year, Syria's interior minister, Ghazi Kanaan, committed suicide in mysterious circumstances. The month before, he had been questioned by a UN investigator over Mr Hariri's death.
The Lebanese environment minister, Yacoub Sarraf, a Christian loyal to the Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahoud, resigned shortly before cabinet met yesterday. Five Shiite ministers from Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, quit on Saturday over the collapse of talks on their demands for effective veto power.
Nine of the cabinet's 24 members must resign for it to fall. A Sunni Muslim minister quit in February, though his resignation was not accepted, leaving 17 ministers in the cabinet. The Christian opposition leader, Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, vowed to press ahead with demands for a national unity government, saying Mr Siniora's cabinet had lost its legitimacy as the Shiites, Lebanon's largest community, had quit.
Mr Siniora has rejected all the resignations, but a senior source close to the ministers said they stood by their decision.
"It's hard to see how this situation will be resolved without there being some violence," said Andrew Exum, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The anti-Syrian majority coalition has accused Hezbollah of implementing a Syrian- Iranian plan to overthrow the government and to foil efforts to set up the court to try Mr Hariri's killers.
At the UN in New York yesterday, United States envoy John Bolton said the US was prepared to move quickly in the Security Council to approve the tribunal "once we receive formal word form the government of Lebanon".
The US has already accused Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of plotting to topple the government, which Washington holds up as an example of emerging democracy in the Middle East.
Demography shown to be at odds with power-share
LEBANON'S political system aims to share power equally between Christians and Muslims, but a survey published yesterday shows that Christians form only 35 per cent of the population.
Private statistician Youssef al-Duweihi, a Maronite Christian, said his figures were based on identity registrations and electoral rolls. "This is scientific, not political," he said. "I want to tell the Lebanese this is Lebanon and if there is a problem, resolve it."
According to his survey, published in the independent an-Nahar newspaper, Lebanon has 4.855 million people, of whom just over 35 per cent are Christian, 29 per cent Shiite Muslim, 29 per cent Sunni Muslim and 5 per cent Druze.
Such figures are so sensitive in Lebanon that the last official census was conducted in 1932 during the French Mandate. It said that Christians made up 55 per cent of the population.
Mr Duweihi, a mathematician, said his survey showed Lebanon's demography was at odds with the power-sharing set-up. "It's time to discuss the political system and the electoral law," he said.
The Taif agreement, which ended the 1975-90 civil war, modified the complex religious power-sharing system set up in 1943. Taif gave Muslims and Christians equal representation in parliament, instead of the six to five advantage Christians had enjoyed previously.