Lebanon in turmoil as caretaker govt steps in

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Beirut, Jan 13 (AFP) Lebanon''s president preparedtoday to tackle the politically delicate task of naming a newpremier after Hezbollah forced the collapse of the unitygovernment, plunging the country back into crisis.

President Michel Sleiman called on the government tocontinue in a caretaker capacity and said he would on Mondaylaunch consultations with parliamentary groups on appointing anew premier, who must be a Sunni Muslim in line withtradition.

In a sweep led by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, 11ministers withdrew from Prime Minister Saad Hariri''sgovernment yesterday evening, providing the minimum number ofresignations to automatically dissolve the 30-member cabinet.

The move was linked to a long-running dispute over theUN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which isreportedly set to indict high-ranking Hezbollah operatives inthe 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, Saad''sfather.

The resignations of the 11 ministers came after SaudiArabia and Syria failed in their bid to defuse tensions overthe tribunal and find a compromise between the two rivalcamps.

For months, Hezbollah has been pressing Hariri todisavow the Netherlands-based court, which is reportedly setto indict senior members of the militant party.

The group has accused the tribunal of being part of aUS-Israeli plot and has warned of grave repercussions shouldany of its members be implicated by the court. (AFP)

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