Lebanese coalition collapses in turmoil over probe

Lebanese coalition collapses in turmoil over probe

Move sparks fear of civil war

A covered statue of slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri stands in Beirut. Eleven of 30 Lebanese Cabinet members, all supporters of Hezbollah, resigned Wednesday, sinking the coalition government after months of disagreement over how to respond to a U.N. probe into the assassination. (Associated Press)

By Shaun Waterman

The Washington Times

8:36 p.m., Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lebanon‘s year-old coalition government collapsed Wednesday amid fears that a United Nations report into the 2005 assassination of the country’s prime minister will trigger a new civil war and plunge the Middle East into another conflict.

“We may well be seeing the opening moves of the next Middle East war,” said Bruce Riedel, a veteran U.S. national security official who is now a Middle East scholar at the Brookings Institution.

The government in Beirut fell after 11 of 30 Cabinet ministers, all supporters of the Hezbollah-backed March 8 bloc, resigned – the culmination of a long tussle with other elements of the coalition over how to respond to a U.N. special tribunal investigating the killing. Hezbollah, a Shiite extremist group backed by Iran and Syria that the United States has designated a terrorist organization, is a legal political party with a large parliamentary caucus in Lebanon. Following inconclusive elections in 2009 and months of haggling, Hezbollah and its allies joined a unity government in Beirut. Continue reading