Lebanese crisis deepens, army deployed

2011-01-20 18:32
Lebanese soldiers rest on an M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) deployed in Beirut. (Joseph Eid, AFP)

Lebanese soldiers rest on an M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) deployed in Beirut. (Joseph Eid, AFP)

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Beirut - Lebanese troops backed by tanks tightened security around government buildings in Beirut on Thursday, as the political rift between the country's rivalling factions deepened.

Army tanks were seen taking up position around the government palace and the residence of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in downtown Beirut.

A Lebanese security source told the German Press Agency dpa that the move came after opposition figures close to the Shi'ite movement Hezbollah hinted that their followers were ready to take street actions.

Lebanon is experiencing one of its worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The political turmoil started when Lebanon's national unity government collapsed on January 12th, after Hezbollah and their allies withdrew from the cabinet to protest against Hariri's reluctance to cut ties with a UN tribunal that is probing the death of his father, former premier Rafik Hariri.

Talks and tribunals

Hezbollah fears being implicated by the court's prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, who has filed confidential draft indictments to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's pre-trial judge, Daniel Fransen.

Tension in Lebanon has prompted regional players such Syria, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to intervene in a bid to mediate in a crisis that many fear could lead to new civil strife in Lebanon.

The foreign minister of Turkey and the prime minister of Qatar arrived in Beirut this week to hold lengthy talks with Lebanese officials.

But the two officials left Beirut early on Thursday, saying they were suspending their mediation effort until they consult with their leaderships.

A joint statement issued by Turkey's Ahmet Davutoglu and Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani said that "due to some reservations, we have decided to stop our efforts at this moment and leave Beirut to consult with our leaderships."

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