Lebanon falls into political, security vacuum after Mikati step down

Lebanese Sunni gunmen opposed to the Syrian regime head to join comrades in Bab al-Tabbaneh during clashes with Alawite pro-Syrian regime supporters. (AFP)

Lebanon on Saturday fell into both a political and security vacuum after the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, which was partly prompted by a refusal by the Cabinet to extend the internal security chief’s mandate.

Another reason why Mikati stepped down was his insistence on holding an election in June before a move by Christian parties to change an electoral law they feel is detrimental to their community.

“In a few days a major security institution risks falling into the void when its director general retires. I felt that during this sensitive period that he should stay in office... but I found that the council of ministers does not share my opinion on this,” Mikati said in announcing his resignation.

Rifi, a Sunni and opponent of Syria, was a thorn in Hezbollah’s side.

His officers were involved in the investigation that led to the indictment by the International Criminal Court of four Hezbollah members for their alleged role in the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005.

Some fear that the repercussions of not extending Rifi’s term in office will not stop, as the vacant seat would fall into the hands of the highest ranked and most senior officer Major General Ali al-Hajj, who is close to Hezbollah.

Hage was the former Director General of the ISF and was arrested after the assassination of Hariri.

Nabil Bou-Monsef, a Lebanese political analyst, told Al Arabiya that “it will be a political provocation” if General Hajj takes the internal security chief’s post.

Future Bloc MP, Ammar Houri, said General Hajj “has had a lot of political rhetoric biased to our political party, on which he was warned by the Internal Security Forces Command and the interior minister.”

The Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, close to the opposition that is hostile to Damascus, expected a “protracted crisis,” while Al-Akhbar on the opposite of the political divide said Mikati’s resignation “means the end of the policy of disassociation.”

“This resignation plan can expect to have security repercussions not only on the border with Syria, but also within Lebanon. The political chaos will last a long time,” it said.

On Saturday, fierce sectarian clashes in which fighters used machineguns and mortars erupted in the flashpoint northern city of Tripoli, killing one Alawite, and wounding another along with a Sunni, a Lebanese security source said.

Intermittent battles pit Alawites belonging to the same sect as Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad against Sunnis, who back Syria’s insurgents.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced concern at the “deteriorating situation,” while U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon called on the Lebanese to unite and maintain their policy of “disassociation” from the Syrian conflict.

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Last Update: Sunday, 24 March 2013 KSA 23:37 - GMT 20:37
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