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Lebanon News

Lebanese Cabinet discusses killing of top security official

  • Information Branch police member checks wrecked cars a day after an explosion hit the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (The Daily Star/Grace Kassab)

  • Car parts are gathered by the Information Branch police members a day after an explosion hit the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (The Daily Star/Grace Kassab)

  • Information Branch police members check the site of explosion in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (The Daily Star/Grace Kassab)

BAABDA, Lebanon: Lebanon's Cabinet convened Saturday to discuss the recent assassination of a top intelligence official as the prospects of a resignation by Prime Minister Najib Mikati receded.

Prior to the Cabinet session, which was attended by security and military officials, State Minister Mohammad Fneish warned that a resignation by Mikati would “plunge the country into the unknown.”

"The government's resignation would throw the country into the unknown and is not a solution but would only escalate the problem," the Hezbollah official told reporters upon his arrival at Baabda Palace.

He added that accusations that Hezbollah was behind the killing of police Information Branch chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who was killed in a Beirut car bombing Friday, were “reactionary.”

“[Handling] the situation requires patience and solidarity,” he said.

Mikati and President Michel Sleiman met separately and spoke about the security situation in light of blast, the first serious bombing in the capital since 2008.

On Friday, a massive car bomb exploded near the bustling Sassine Square in the Beirut neighborhood of Ashrafieh, killing at least five people, including Hasan, and wounding 110 others.

The blast has fueled fears of a return to the wave of political assassinations that rattled Lebanon between 2005 and 2008.

Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, a member of MP Walid Jumblat’s Progressive Social Party, said at Baabda that "the regime which killed Rafik Hariri is the same one that killed Kamal Jumblatt as well as Wissam al-Hasan."

"It is destroying Syria and it is the one destroying Lebanon."

Hours after the explosion, government sources told The Daily Star that Mikati would announce his resignation, quoting the prime minister as saying that he could not bear the repercussions of the attack and had already informed his Cabinet of his decision to quit.

The sources said Mikati’s final decision regarding his resignation would depend on the reactions of his allies as well as those of the March 14 coalition.

The opposition March 14 coalition accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of being behind Hasan’s assassination, calling on Mikati to resign and holding him personally responsible for the killing.

“It is a crime that carries the signature of the Bashar Assad regime and its regional allies and local tools,” said a statement following a meeting of March 14 politicians held at former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s residence in Downtown Beirut.

“The March 14 [coalition] holds Mikati personally responsible for Hasan’s blood and the blood of innocent people. It holds the government politically and morally responsible for the scheme aimed at undermining stability,” the statement said.

Hasan, 47, who arrived in Beirut from Paris Thursday, had been close to Rafik Hariri and played a key role in the probe of the assassination the former premier.

The Information Branch recently uncovered a bomb plot allegedly involving former Lebanese Minister Michel Samaha, who is close to Assad and arrested dozens of collaborators with Israel over the past years.

Reports emerged of a plot to assassinate Hasan and the chief of the ISF, Major General Ashraf Rifi, as far back as January and after Samaha’s arrest.

Speaking to local media, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Saturday that Hasan's killing was a blow to the ISF and that he personally "depended on him [Hasan]."

 
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