Lebanon's justice minister resigns over political deadlock

World Sunday 21/February/2016 19:51 PM
By: Times News Service
Lebanon's justice minister resigns over political deadlock

Beirut: Lebanese Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi resigned on Sunday, blaming political rivals Hezbollah for the country's political deadlock and protesting over the release on bail of a former minister sentenced for smuggling explosives from Syria.
Lebanon's political crisis has left it without a president for 21 months with rival factions unable to agree on a candidate, and has paralysed state institutions, preventing the government from taking even basic decisions.
The release on bail of ex-information minister Michel Samaha last month after serving eight months of a 4 1/2 year jail sentence for smuggling explosives from neighbouring Syria and planning attacks drew anger and condemnation from Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's opponents in Lebanon.
In a new sign of regional tension spilling over into Lebanon, Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended a military aid package to the Lebanese security forces.
Rifi said Hezbollah was to blame for the political paralysis, the Samaha case and the Saudi episode.
"Continuing (to be part of) this government has become an agreement to this deviation, or at least is a failure to confront it," Rifi said in a statement.
"So I present to you and to Prime Minister Tammam Salam my resignation," he said.
The cabinet was to hold an emergency session on Monday, the National News Agency said.
Rifi described the Samaha case as a "national crime," calling for the case to be referred to international courts. The case captivated a Lebanese public accustomed to seeing political violence go unpunished.