The resignation of 11 Hizbullah-allied ministers from the Lebanese Cabinet on Wednesday has sparked fears among Arab nations that another civil war is on the country's horizon.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called on Lebanese lawmakers to put the nation's “supreme interest” ahead of their differences. According to Israel's Channel 10 television, Moussa urged the country's politicians to return to the negotiating table to restore its unity government, saying, “Only national agreement can save Lebanon from the peril of civil war.”
Israeli officials are monitoring the situation carefully, said a source in the foreign ministry.
Hizbullah pulled out after it was unable to force an urgent Cabinet meeting over an impending announcement of indictments by United Nations Special Tribunal in Lebanon (STL). The Tribunal is expected to indict a number of Hizbullah senior terrorists in connection with the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed America's solidarity with Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri.
“The efforts by the Hizbullah-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 the Lebanese people,” the White House said in a statement.
“The president and prime minister reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, implementing all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and continuing a wide-ranging and long-term partnership between the United States and Lebanon,” the statement continued.
“The president and prime minister specifically discussed united efforts with France, Saudi Arabia and other key international and regional actors to maintain calm in Lebanon and ensure that the work of the [Special Tribunal in Lebanon] continues unimpeded by third parties. All parties should avoid threats or actions that could cause instability.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Lebanese coalition crisis a “transparent attempt to subvert justice.” However, she said, “The work of the special tribunal must go forward so justice can be served and impunity ended."
“This is a matter that should be allowed to proceed as previously agreed to,” she said. “This is not only about the tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, but many other people died and were injured as well.” In addition to the former prime minister, 22 other people were killed in the 2005 massive truck bombing.
Meanwhile, Hariri left Washington after meeting with Obama, and headed for Paris for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The two are scheduled to meet Thursday at around 7:15 p.m. Israel time.
According to the Reuters news service, Sarkozy sent a message of support to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman after discussing the situation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal meanwhile urged Hizbullah to rejoin the government. But the Saudis, who back the Sunni Muslim Hariri government, may not have much clout with the Shiite Hizbullah terrorists, who are backed by Iran and Syria.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, expressed his support for the Tribunal's work and called on all parties to continue dialogue, a spokesman said in a statement.