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5 Ministers Resign After Lebanon Talks Collapse


A total of five Shi'ite Muslims in Lebanon's cabinet resigned Saturday after the government refused a demand to include more members of Hezbollah. The resignations came after talks aimed at unifying the fractious government collapsed.

Five pro-Syrian Shi'ite Muslim ministers from Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, resigned after the all-party talks on giving their camp more say in government broke down.

Their resignation from the 24-member Western-backed cabinet came two days before it was scheduled to discuss a draft U.N. document setting up a tribunal
to try the killers of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

While the resignation of the ministers will not topple the government, it will likely make it ifficult for the U.S.-supported Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to form consensus and pass laws. On Saturday, Mr. Siniora rejected the resignations.

Hezbollah has demanded the government increase its number of Cabinet positions and give them veto power. The Syrian-backed Hezbollah has threatened massive protests to bring down the government if it doesn't respond to their demands.

The threats prompted the government to organize unity talks with the three major political parties this week.

Earlier today, Samir Geagea, the leader of the Christian group forces asked for members to show restraint, rather than exchanging threats.

"We have not made any progress and the speaker of the house, [Nabih] Berri, is traveling," he said. "I do not know who is trying to spread fear and panic for what is going to happen on Monday. Nothing is going to happen and we have not reached any agreement."

Geagea suggested that the U.N. document to set up the Hariri international tribunal was partly responsible for the failure of the talks. "Unfortunately, there are some who are trying undermine the international tribunal," he said without elaborating..