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Justice minister resigns over Hizballah's 'growing hold' on Lebanon

A key figure in Lebanese politics, Rifi was also head of Internal Security Forces [AFP]

Date of publication: 21 February, 2016

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Further compounding Lebanon's political crisis, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi has resigned, saying it is impossible to govern in light of Hizballah's dominance over Lebanon's domestic and foreign policies.

Lebanon's Justice Minister Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi resigned on Sunday, to protest Hizballah's growing control over the country. 

Rifi, who belongs to the anti-Syrian regime and Saudi-backed Future Movement, accused Hizballah of having formed a "statelet" in Lebanon that has made the work of the cabinet he belonged to impossible.

"Hizballah is disintegrating the state and placing Lebanon's sovereignty and its ties with Arab nations in the worst dangers," a statement by Rifi said.

This is a reference to Lebanon's deteriorating relations with Saudi Arabia who pulled a multi-billion military aid deal to Beirut last week.

Riyadh's decision to cut aid was due to increasingly pro-Iranian realignment by Lebanon under the country's Hizballah alligned foreign ministry, the Gulf state said.

Samaha

The key issue that prompted the resignation of the hawkish Future Movement minister and former head of Lebanon's police force is the affair of Michel Samaha

The pro-Assad former minister was freed on bail last month despite a video emerging of him agreeing to a bomb plot said to be ordered by the neighbouring Syrian regime.

The decision by Beirut's courts sparked outrage among anti-Hizballah elements in in Lebanon.

Earlier this week, Rifi announced that he had decided to refer Samaha's case the International Criminal Court, accusing some members of the cabinet of blocking the referral of the proceedings to Lebanon's Judicial Council.

Samaha was freed on bail after serving a jail term for smuggling explosives into Lebanon from Syria and planning attacks, the national news agency said.

He was sentenced to four years in prison in May, having been detained since August 2012.

A military court released him on bail, secured by 150 million Lebanese pounds ($100,000).



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