Druse say under pressure to name new Lebanese PM

Jumblatt: Nominating Hariri would be catastrophic for Druse in Hizbullah-controlled areas; security stepped up at Hariri's house, around Beirut.

January 20, 2011 18:00
2 minute read.
A tank drives through Beirut

Tank in Beirut 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)


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BEIRUT — Lebanese troops tightened security around the prime minister's office and other government buildings Thursday as a political crisis deepened over a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of a former prime minister.

A senior security official confirmed to The Associated Press that the security measures in and around Beirut stem from "concerns of movements on the ground by some parties." The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

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Hizbullah drills military takeover of Beirut
Saudi Arabia ends effort to mediate in Lebanon crisis

Special police forces were seen hauling cement barriers around the government house in Beirut and putting up reinforcements around government buildings and banks. Tanks deployed in many areas of the city.

The new measures follow the departure from Beirut of Qatari and Turkish mediators after two days of talks that apparently failed to resolve the differences between Lebanon's main rival factions and bring them back together in a coalition government.

Syria and Saudi Arabia — who back rival camps in Lebanon — had for months been trying to find a settlement to the crisis. When those efforts failed, ministers of Hizbullah and their allies pulled out of the unity Cabinet, toppling the government.

Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt on Thursday said he is under great pressure not to name caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri as the government's next premier despite earlier statements of support for him, Lebanese paper an-Nahar reported.

He told members of his party that insisting on Hariri as the country's new prime minister would lead to "catastrophic consequences" for the security of the Druse party, himself, and the Druse population in Hizbullah-controlled areas. He added that things "have become greater than him and his ability to maintain the middle ground in a harsh battle in which Hariri's regional and international backers only resort to statements, while his opponents (Hizbullah) turn to all manners of military and popular pressure," according to the report.

Jumblatt said that he is under pressure to name former Lebanese prime minister Omar Karami in place of Hariri.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia said it was abandoning efforts to mediate, dealing a setback to American diplomacy in the region and raising concerns in Lebanon the crisis was headed for a confrontation.

Qatar and Turkey tried to pick up on the Saudi and Syrian initiative. But two days of meetings by their foreign ministers with rival Lebanese politicians appeared to have failed to produce a deal.

A statement issued by the two before they left Beirut Thursday said they would consult with their leadership.

The statement, published in the state-run National News Agency, said they had formulated in Beirut a paper that takes into consideration "the political and legal requirements to solve the current crisis in Lebanon."

"But because of some reservations, they decided to stop their efforts in Lebanon at this time and leave Beirut to consult with their leadership," the statement added.

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