Obama Meets With Hariri; Lebanese Government Collapses
government of Lebanon collapsed Wednesday, shortly after Prime Minister Saad
Hariri met with President Barack Obama at the White House. Top U.S. officials
have condemned the move by Hezbollah and its allies to bring the government
President Obama and Prime Minister Hariri reaffirmed their commitment to
strengthening Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, even as the government in
Beirut was collapsing.
After the meeting, the White House released a written statement, saying in part,
"The efforts by the Hezbollah-led coalition to collapse the Lebanese government
only demonstrate their own fear and determination to block the government's
ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the
According to the statement, Mr. Obama commended the prime minister for his
"steadfast leadership and efforts to reach peace, stability and consensus in
Lebanon under difficult circumstances."
Lebanon's year-old unity government came down when Hezbollah ministers and their
allies resigned over the United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the 2005
assassination of then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the father of the current
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, denies involvement in the
assassination and has denounced the tribunal.
Edmund Ghareeb, professor of Middle East history at American University in
Washington, says the timing of the resignations to coincide with Mr. Hariri's
visit to Washington was intentional.
"Hezbollah and its allies wanted to send a message that they were very unhappy
with the failure to reach an agreement on the court," said Edmund Ghareeb. "And
also, probably, they wanted to send a message to Washington, because they
believed that Washington was interfering."
The White House statement says President Obama stressed the importance of the
tribunal's work as a way of helping to end what it called "the era of political
assassinations with impunity in Lebanon."
A return of the violence which wracked Lebanon in 2008 is possible, according to
Rand Corporation senior analyst Fred Wehrey. But he says Hezbollah will probably
try to avoid it, because the fighting three years ago was a setback for the
"That proved tremendously damaging to Hezbollah's domestic standing, and
Hezbollah has become a very astute political player over the years," said Fred
Wehrey. "It survives and it succeeds in Lebanon through forming alliances and
building domestic legitimacy, and that move proved very damaging to its
Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Hariri discussed efforts with France, Saudi Arabia
and others to maintain calm in Lebanon and allow the tribunal to continue its
An earlier White House statement said President Obama spoke with Saudi Arabia's
King Abdullah by telephone on Tuesday night.
Among other topics, they discussed ways to support Mr. Hariri and Lebanon's
sovereignty, independence and stability.
Mr. Obama also discussed Lebanon with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in their
White House meeting on Monday.
... Payvand News - 01/13/11 ... --