Lebanese justice minister resigns, cites Hizbullah ‘dominance’

Special to WorldTribune.com

Hizbullah’s “dominance” of the Lebanese government has led Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi to resign his post.

Rifi, a longtime critic of Shi’ite Hizbullah, stepped down two days after Saudi Arabia canceled deals worth $4 billion that were aimed at equipping and supporting Lebanese security forces, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Asraf Rifi
Ashraf Rifi

Saudi Arabia halted the deals after Lebanon refused to back the Sunni kingdom in its dispute with Shi’ite power Iran, the leading supporter of Hizbullah.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) backed Saudi’s decision, which came after Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil declined to support Saudi resolutions against Iran during two meetings of Arab and Muslim foreign ministers.

Rifi charged that Bassil “dared to offend the kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the request of Hizbullah. He said the practices of Hizbullah’s statelet and its allies are not acceptable and staying in the government means approving them.

“There is an armed party that is dominating the government’s decisions,” Rifi said. “I call upon the government to at least apologize to the (Saudi) kingdom, its leadership and people.”

Lebanon has had a national unity government since 2014, with members of different factions including Hizbullah and the Saudi-backed Future Movement headed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, whose 2009 assassination has been blamed on Syria and Hizbullah, the report said.

Lebanon also has been without a president since Michel Suleiman’s term ended in May 2014. The parliament has 33 times failed to elect a new head of state.

Rifi also campaigned for the release of former Information Minister Michel Samaha, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who was convicted by a Lebanese military court on charges of plotting bombings at the behest of Syria. He was sentenced in May to four-and-a-half years in prison.

The court agreed last month to release Samaha on $100,000 bail. He was banned from leaving the country pending a retrial.

Rifi attempted to refer the case to another judicial body, but said his efforts to do so were blocked by Hizbullah.

“I will not be a false witness and will not be a cover for those who are trying to dominate the state and its institutions,” he said, according to AP.

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