"The whole country is on the brink of the abyss, salaries are down and the government could collapse. What a country!"
11 January 2011
7. Wide of opposition meeting
8. Mid of Christian leader Michel Aoun
9. Various of ministers
10. Pan of meeting
11. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Fneish, Hezbollah Cabinet Minister:
"Today the country is subject to some developments, it is targeted by the indictment and the Tribunal which is politically biased. There was an Arab endeavour, we gave it a chance and we dealt with it positively. Because of the American intervention and because the other party (referring to Prime Minister Hariri and his group) was not able to overcome the American pressure, this endeavour was inactive. Today it is necessary for the Lebanese and through the constitutional institutions to confront these obstacles and to find a solution."
The Islamic militant group Hezbollah and its allies plan to resign from the Lebanese Cabinet and topple the government on Wednesday, over tensions stemming from the international investigation of the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, officials said.
The ministers were planning to resign in the afternoon, unless Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the murdered leader, agrees to their demand to convene an urgent Cabinet meeting over the crisis, which relates to the Special Tribunal of Lebanon which is investigating Rafik Hariri's assassination.
The announcement was made by Lebanon's Health Minister Mohammed, speaking on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV.
Hezbollah has denounced the tribunal as an "Israeli project" and urged Hariri to reject any findings by the court, which has not yet announced any indictments.
But the prime minister has refused to break cooperation with the tribunal.
Another official allied to Hezbollah confirmed the resignation plan, which calls for Hezbollah and its allies to step down along with one more minister who would tip the balance and force the government to fall.
Hariri, whose coalition has been sharing power with the Iranian-backed militant group, was to meet on Wednesday with President Barack Obama in Washington to discuss the crisis.
The UN-backed Special Tribunal of Lebanon which is investigating the elder Hariri's killing is widely expected to name members of the Hezbollah in upcoming indictments, which many fear could re-ignite hostilities between Lebanon's rival Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
To bring down the government, Hezbollah needs the backing of more than a third of the ministers.
Hezbollah and its allies have 10 ministers in the 30-member Cabinet, and an official close to Hezbollah said an 11th minister close to President Michel Suleiman would also submit his resignation.
The impending indictments already have paralyzed Lebanon's government.
Hariri's office had no immediate comment on the resignation plans, but referred to his earlier statement late Tuesday that said: "We will use all possible means to keep channels open to all the Lebanese to reach solutions that guarantee stability and calm and preserve national unity."
Violence has been a major concern as tensions rise in Lebanon, where Shiites, Sunnis and Christians each make up about a third of the country's four million people. In 2008, sectarian clashes killed 81 people and nearly plunged Lebanon into another civil war.
Hariri's assassination in a suicide bombing that killed 22 other people both stunned and polarised Lebanese.
He was a Sunni who was a hero to his own community and backed by many Christians who sympathised with his efforts in the last few months of his life to reduce Syrian influence in the country.
A string of assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians and public figures followed, which UN investigators have said may have been connected to the Hariri killing.
The Netherlands-based tribunal has not said who it will indict, but Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has said he has information that members of his group will be named.
Hezbollah denied any role in the assassination and denounced the court as a conspiracy against it.
On Tuesday, officials announced that a diplomatic push by Syria and Saudi Arabia had failed to reach a deal to ease political tensions in Lebanon.
There had been few details about the direction of the Syrian-Saudi initiative, but the talks were lauded as a potential Arab breakthrough, rather than a solution offered by Western powers.
Hezbollah Cabinet Minister Mohammed Fneish said on Tuesday the initiative was done in by "American intervention and because the other party was not able to overcome the American pressure."
The collapse prompted on Wednesday's push for an emergency Cabinet meeting, even though Hariri was out of the country and planning to meet Obama.