Hariri returns to crisis-hit Lebanon

2011-01-14 18:30

Beirut - Lebanon's premier Saad Hariri returned to Beirut on Friday, two days after Hezbollah forced the collapse of his government, an official close to the leader told AFP.

Hariri returned to his crisis-hit country after week-long talks in the United States, France and Turkey on a standoff between his camp and the powerful Hezbollah over a UN probe into his father's 2005 assassination.

In a move led by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, 11 ministers withdrew from Hariri's unity cabinet on Wednesday, providing the minimum number of resignations needed to automatically dissolve the government.

The walkout followed a long-running dispute over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is reportedly set to indict senior Hezbollah members in connection with the murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, Saad's father.

The resignations came after efforts by regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Syria to defuse tensions over the tribunal failed to find a compromise between the two rival camps.

President Michel Sleiman is set to begin consultations on Monday with his country's 128 parliamentarians to nominate a new prime minister.

Hariri, who was hosting a lunch on Friday in honour of visiting Prince Albert of Monaco, has not yet commented on the government collapse.