Lebanon's US-backed government on Saturday approved the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of a former prime minister despite objections by Hezbollah and the country's pro-Syrian president.
The move is likely to further deepen the country's political crisis and spark the mass street demonstrations already threatened by Syrian-backed Hezbollah and its allies to topple the government of prime minister Fuad Saniora.
On Friday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri had issued a statement demanding a veto wielding share of the cabinet.
Earlier this month six pro-Hezbollah government ministers resigned while, this week, the Christian industry minister Pierre Gemayel was assassinated.
Fuad Saniora, the Lebanese prime minister, said Saturday he was willing to postpone the cabinet meeting to approve the tribunal "for a few days" if the six ministers would return to the government.
The meeting went ahead as scheduled.
An ongoing UN investigation into the February 2005 truck bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others has said the killing's complexity suggests the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role in the assassination.
Damascus has denied having any role in the killing but, having dominated Lebanon for nearly three decades, was forced to withdraw its troops.
The power struggle since, between rival factions, intensified earlier this year as a result of a 34-day war waged by Hezbollah against Israel.
In October, Nasrallah began threatening mass protests unless Hezbollah's demand for a national unity government was met.
Now, in the wake of Gemayel's assassination earlier this week, some cabinet ministers are taking shelter in government headquarters in downtown Beirut.