by Mirella Hodeib, Ren Ke
BEIRUT, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The collapse of the Lebanese government after 11 ministers submitted their resignations stirred regional as well as international concerns on Wednesday.
The Lebanese government was brought down after 11 ministers from the 30-seat cabinet announced resignation, as rival groups reached deadlock over the investigation into the assassination of Lebanese former Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Tensions have considerably mounted in Lebanon over the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is believed to point the finger at Hezbollah. Many fear that an indictment against Hezbollah will ignite violence between the country's Sunni and Shiite communities, dragging Lebanon again to the brink of a civil war.
Eleven ministers, 10 from the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance and one close to President Michel Suleiman, resigned on Wednesday afternoon. According to the Lebanese Constitution, a government is brought down when more than one third of cabinet ministers resign.
The resignations of the ministers came after the March 8 Alliance on Tuesday gave the government a 24-hour deadline to have a cabinet meeting to discuss the crisis in Lebanon.
Formed in November 2009, the national unity government comprised 15 ministers from the majority March 14 Alliance, 10 ministers from the opposition March 8 Alliance and five close to the President, which is considered as neutral balance.
The Iran and Syria-backed March 8 Alliance said the 10 ministers left the government after efforts led by Lebanon's two main power brokers Saudi Arabia and Syria to solve the deadlock over the STL reached a dead end.
Commenting on developments in Lebanon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in her Mideast tour, said in Doha the resignation was a transparent attempt to subvert justice, vowing that the work of the UN-backed STL would continue.
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon's media office said the Secretary General was closely monitoring developments in Lebanon, adding the situation in the small Mediterranean country was fast evolving.
Ban called for continuing dialogue among all Lebanese parties and urged respect for the Constitution. The UN chief reiterated support for the work of the UN probe into the 2005 assassination of Hariri.
In a routine meeting on Wednesday, Lebanon's western and Saudi- backed March 14 Alliance also reiterated their support for the STL. The March 14 led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain politician, said that Lebanon enters "a new March 8-made phase aimed to hinder government institutions once again." The alliance also ruled out a compromise on the issue of the STL.
Hezbollah and its allies have launched a campaign to discredit the STL. The March 8 alliance has demanded that the Lebanese Cabinet cut the funding and withdraw Lebanese judges from the tribunal and put an end to all cooperation with the STL.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal urged Hezbollah to rejoin the government. "The resignations will be dangerous as they will cause clashes once again," Faisal told reporters in Ankara.
"They have the potential to cause everything built so far to collapse," the Saudi minister said, warning of repercussions around the region.
The government collapsed at the time of Saad Hariri's meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. Hariri did not immediately comment on the collapse of his government.
A White House statement issued after the Obama-Hariri talks commended Hariri for his "steadfast leadership and efforts to reach peace, stability and consensus in Lebanon under difficult circumstances."
"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 Lebanese people, " the statement said.
Obama also stressed the importance of the tribunal's work as a "means to help end the era of political assassinations with impunity in Lebanon."
Following the resignation of the 11 ministers, Hariri interrupted his visit to the United States and headed to France for talks with French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, whose country assisted rival Lebanese factions to reconcile in 2008 following street clashes, said Qatar had no plans to mediate as it has done in previous Lebanese political crises, but added that the Gulf region hoped the Saudi initiative to find a solution could still move forward.
"We still hope that there will be a solution which will avoid Lebanon slipping into conflicts of any sort," he said at a joint press conference with his visiting U.S. counterpart in Doha.