Lebanese government turmoil

“We have resigned because the majority insists on exercising power on its own,” said a spokesman for the ministers, four of whom ae from Hezbollah and its ally Amal.

He was referring to the anti-Syrian majority that has baulked at forming a unity government without having guarantees that pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud will step down.

Prime Minister Fuad Siniora immediately issued a statement saying he would not accept the resignations which he said he had heard about in the media.

“Mr Siniora rejects the resignation of Hezbollah and Amal ministers, even if they officially hand in their resignation, and insists that they take part in government,” the statement said.

The resignations came after the failure of a week of talks on forming a unity government and months of political stalemate because of disputes between pro- and anti-Syrian elements in parliament.

The powerful Hezbollah movement, supported by Syria and Iran and flush from its claimed “divine victory” in the summer war with Israel, had two portfolios in the 24-minister cabinet which is dominated by anti-Syrian politicians.

Two ministers from Shi’ite ally Amal also resigned, along with Foreign Minister Fawzi Sallukh who is considered close to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah wants to bring in opposition allies, represented by Christian ally Michel Aoun’s parliamentary group – with 21 of parliament’s 128 deputies.

It also wants a number of cabinet posts that would ensure it had a “blocking minority”, a move opposed by the anti-Syrian majority that sees this as a Syrian attempt to return strongly to Lebanese politics.

Such a mechanism would allow the opposition to prevent the government from ratifying the formation of an international court to try those eventually charged for the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri.