Hezbollah Forces Collapse of Lebanese Government


Hezbollah and its allies forced the collapse of the government here on Wednesday, deepening a crisis over a United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of a former prime minister.

Eleven of the cabinet’s 30 ministers announced their resignations, a move that dissolves the government. They said they were prompted to act by the cabinet’s refusal to convene an emergency session to oppose the tribunal, which is expected to indict members of Hezbollah.

Ten of the ministers announced their resignations just as Prime Minister Saad Hariri was meeting with President Obama in Washington. The opposition had hoped that all 11 ministers would resign together, to bring down the government at that time and expose Mr. Hariri to the maximum embarrassment.

But the 11th minister, Adnan Sayed Hussein, announced his resignation in a statement later in the evening, the National News Agency reported, after the meeting in Washington was over.

The collapse of the fragile government is the worst crisis in Lebanon since 2008, when an agreement reached in Qatar achieved a truce to end sectarian clashes that killed 81 people and brought Lebanon to the brink of a renewal of its 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.

“We were committed but they were not,” said Ammar Houri, a lawmaker with Mr. Hariri’s bloc. He added that Mr. Hariri’s allies were meeting to decide the next step.

Hezbollah and its foes have wrestled over the direction of the small Mediterranean country since the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was killed in a bombing along Beirut’s seafront in 2005. Twenty-two other people died in the attack. Since then, the tribunal has investigated his death and is now widely expected to indict members of Hezbollah, the country’s powerful Shiite Muslim movement.

Hezbollah has denied involvement and denounced the tribunal as an “Israeli project.” It has urged Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the slain man’s son, to reject its findings. Mr. Hariri, who has so far resisted the pressure, cut short his visit to the United States in order to return early to Lebanon and deal with the widening political crisis.