Lebanese Political Feud Jolts Cabinet

From Associated Press

Four of Lebanon's Cabinet ministers resigned Monday to protest the extension of President Emile Lahoud's term, part of a bruising political battle that divided allies and drew the attention of the U.N. Security Council.

The resignations were not expected to bring down the government of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. But they prompted Lahoud to convene a meeting with Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to discuss the future of the Cabinet.

Three of the four resigning ministers -- Economy Minister Marwan Hamadeh, Culture Minister Ghazi Aridi and Minister of Refugee Affairs Abdullah Farhat -- were members of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party. The fourth was Environment Minister Fares Boueiz, an independent.

Last week, Parliament amended the Constitution to permit Lahoud, who is backed by Syria, to stay in office another three years, despite domestic and international objections. The amendment came despite a Security Council resolution urging Lebanon to proceed with elections as planned in November and Syria to loosen its control over Lebanon's politics.

Jumblatt said the decision to pull out his ministers conformed with his 14-member parliamentary bloc's decision to oppose the extension of Lahoud's term.

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