Lebanon cabinet to meet on UN Hariri court

AFP, Wednesday 15 Dec 2010

Lebanon's deeply divided national unity government is to meet today after a month of wrangling, over a UN probe into the murder of ex-premier Rafiq Al-Hariri, sparked fears of cabinet paralysis

PM Saad Hariri

The gathering of Lebanese ministers on Wednesday comes as tensions soar over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is expected to issue an indictment implicating the Shia resistance group Hezbollah in the 2005 Beirut bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others.

Hezbollah has warned that it will regard any charges against its members as an attack.

Topping the agenda for Wednesday's meeting is a potential vote on the controversial issue of alleged "false witnesses" who testified to UN investigators.

Hezbollah is demanding a cabinet vote on whether to launch an inquiry by the nation's highest court into what it claims was bogus testimony given to the investigators.

Pro-Western Prime Minister Saad Hariri -- son of the slain ex-premier -- heads a majority alliance that is standing firm against the vote, which they say merely aims to torpedo the troubled STL.

But as political alliances have shifted over the past year, the Shia resistance movement could now tie or even win a cabinet vote against the rival Hariri coalition.

President Michel Sleiman has urged the rival parties to come to an agreement without putting it to a vote.

Mona Ofeish, a minister without portfolio appointed by the president and considered politically neutral, told AFP talks were underway to find a compromise.

She did not give further details on the talks but said the government should "focus on the priorities of the Lebanese people, who are fed up with talk about the tribunal and false witnesses, and would like to see us discuss inflation and issues that affect their daily lives."

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