President Barack Obama said the collapse of Lebanon’s unity government today shows Hezbollah’s fear of a united country acting for all Lebanese people.
“The efforts by the Hezbollah-led coalition to collapse the Lebanese government only demonstrate their own fear and determination to block the government’s ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the Lebanese people,” Obama said in a statement issued after he held a private meeting at the White House with Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Lebanon’s national unity government collapsed today as Hezbollah and its allies quit over a United Nations probe into the killing of former premier Rafiq Hariri, father of the current prime minister. The move is an attempt to slow or stop the UN tribunal from going forward, according to an administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Obama and Hariri said in the statement that the work of the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father must proceed “as a means to help end the era of political assassinations with impunity in Lebanon.”
The country’s instability has surged to the top of the agenda for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Qatar to attend a forum on sustainable development tomorrow as part of a swing through Gulf countries.
Meetings in Doha
The top U.S. diplomat will discuss Lebanon with her counterparts at the meetings in Doha tomorrow, and she has already been consulting with leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France and elsewhere about forming an international consensus to support both Lebanon and the UN tribunal, an administration official said.
In Doha, Clinton pointed a finger at Hezbollah and its sponsors, Syria and Iran. “We view what happened today as a transparent effort by those forces inside Lebanon as well as interests outside Lebanon to subvert justice and undermine Lebanon’s stability and progress,” she said today.
Hezbollah, whose ally Syria is blamed by many Lebanese for the killing, has demanded an end to the inquiry. As the UN tribunal prepares to make an indictment, tensions have escalated on concern that it may implicate Hezbollah in the assassination and plunge Lebanon back into violence.
The country emerged from a 15-year civil war in 1990 and has seen frequent recurrences of sectarian strife since then.
Qatar’s foreign minister and prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, appearing with Clinton at a press conference, said, “We do not want any party to end up losing, we have our respect for all the parties and all the factions in Lebanon”
“We still hope there will be a solution that stops Lebanon from slipping into further conflict,” he said.
Clinton delivered a final warning, both to Lebanon’s leaders and to Hezbollah and its allies.
“We believe that the leaders of Lebanon have an ongoing responsibility to serve the interests of their own people, not outside forces trying to bring the government down as a way to undermine the special tribunal,” Clinton said.
“But it won’t work” to stop the UN effort, Clinton added. “This tribunal is a creation of the United Nations and the Security Council. It is supported by many governments, including my own. Its work will continue.”
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