Hizballah and allies boycott Lebanon cabinet meeting
Lebanon's cabinet is due to meet again Thursday after failing to find a solution to a garbage crisis that has sparked violent protests and calls for the government's resignation.
However, Hizballah and allied Christian politicians will boycott Thursday's meeting, worsening the political crisis that has now tapped into a much deeper malaise.
Hizballah threw its weight behind the mass protests, which have been taking place since Saturday. In a statement Tuesday, Hizballah said the garbage crisis reflected the "endemic and accumulated corruption of the past two decades" and policies that only serve "personal and political interests at the expense of citizens."
It said holding peaceful protests was a legitimate right.
Media run by Hizballah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of Christian politician Michel Aoun, the group's main Christian ally, reported that Prime Minister Tammam Salam had been informed of the boycott decision.
Ministers from both groups walked out of the cabinet session on Tuesday, meant to discuss the worsening garbage crisis.
Salam called the emergency session after the weekend clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting corruption and poor public services.
But six ministers withdrew four hours into the meeting.
Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, whose Free Patriotic Movement is aligned with Hizballah, said he was pulling out because of the political "theatre" surrounding the trash issue.
During the cabinet session, ministers unanimously rejected the winning bidders to manage Beirut's trash collection, citing high costs and a bidding procedure some said was questionable.
The cabinet tasked a ministerial committee with restarting the bidding, meaning no imminent solution to the crisis was likely.
Salam suggested dumping the garbage in the remote, impoverished region of Akkar, which has been neglected for decades, in exchange for $100 million in development projects as an incentive.
The trash crisis has exacerbated the long-existing fault lines in Lebanon which in recent years have pitted Hizballah against the country's Western-aligned, pro-Saudi camp.
Those divisions mirror the larger regional Shia-Sunni divide, and have long paralysed the government.
Although Salam's government has elements from both camps, Hizballah regards the prime minister as an ally of Saudi Arabia.
The group's ally, Christian leader Michel Aoun, has been assailing the prime minister over his handling of cabinet and security appointments.