Speaker rules out March 8 withdrawal from cabinet


Lebanon Speaker Nabih Berri ruled out the withdrawal of the March 8 ministers from the cabinet in its future sessions, during an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) which published on Saturday,

Berri , Hezbollah’s key ally said he guarantees that the ministers who represent him in the cabinet will accept the results of a possible vote on the issue of “false witnesses.”

“The current impasse elated to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s (STL) upcoming indictment is blackmail conducted by some foreign states and is also being used to serve the interests of some Lebanese parties.” Berri said

Berri’s remarks come after president Michel Suleiman adjourned Wednesday’s cabinet session in order to prevent a divisive vote after ministers again failed to reach agreement on the “false witnesses” controversy.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said Saturday in a statement that an indirect vote has already been cast against the false witnesses issue…. The rejection of 20 cabinet ministers to vote on the issue was a sign that the majority was against Hezbollah’s demand to prosecute the witnesses before the indictment is issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)

“The presidential ministers along with the Democratic Gathering bloc and the March 14 coalition ministers refused to cast a vote in the cabinet, and since they comprise 20 out of 30 total ministers, an indirect vote has been cast,” Geagea said stressed that “The other team has only 10 ministers.”

The Hezbollah- led March 8 ministers have called for the cabinet to task the Justice Council with investigating the issue of witnesses who gave unreliable testimonies to the international probe into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. However, March 14 ministers insist that the regular judiciary should handle the matter.

Tension escalated in Lebanon following reports that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will soon issue its indictment into the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Last July, the Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that the tribunal is “an Israeli project” that will indict Hezbollah members. Nasrallah accused Israel of being behind Hariri’s assassination but refused to provide the evidence to STL to support his claim. Hezbollah and its March 8 allies have been calling for the abolition of STL.