Lebanon calls to UN investigation into political murders as five ministers suspend their cabinet membership
Five Lebanese cabinet ministers announced on Monday that they were suspending their membership in Lebanon's government in the wake of a call for a UN inquiry into Lebanon's recent political assassinations. The five ministers, four of whom are pro-Syrian and Shiite Muslims, are staunch allies of Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud.
The ministers include Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, Hizbullah's Labor Minister Trad Hamadeh, two ministers from the Shi'ite Amal group, as well as Christian Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf.
Mohammed Fneish, Hizbullah Energy Minister, also objected to what he referred to as the abandoning of Lebanon's sovereignty. "We object to the principle of internationalizing all Lebanese files ... and abandoning (Lebanon's) sovereignty," according to Reuters.
Fneish stressed, however, that the move on the part of the ministers was not a desertion of Lebanon's government, saying, "This is not a resignation from the government but a suspension of membership in the cabinet while awaiting a decision from our political leadership."
Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called for an emergency meeting following Monday's assassination of anti-Syrian lawmaker and journalist Gebran Tueni.
The government then called on the UN to investigate the Tueni murder as well as a string of similar attacks in recent months on other anti-Syrian political figures in Lebanon. A request was also made to form an international tribunal to investigate the death of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.
New evidence surfaced on Monday implicating Syria of obstructing the UN investigation into the murder of Hariri. The report said that Syrian documents had been burned relating to Lebanon and one witness who was pressured to retract his testimony. It added that information was discovered which directly implicated perpetrators and organizers of a plot to kill Hariri.
A separate report released in October implicated top Syrian security officials and their Lebanese allies. Detlev Mehlis who headed the probe will brief the UN security council on Tuesday. He has said he then wants to step down and return to his job as a leading prosecutor in Berlin.
Meanwhile, the United States condemned Monday's attack on Tueni, saying that it was "vicious act of terror."
US President George W. Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to Syrian "interference" in Lebanon in their statements on the attack.
"Syrian interference in Lebanon continues, and it must end completely," said Rice, who also referred to Tueni a "patriot" and a voice of Lebanese freedom.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)