BEIRUT, October 13 (Hfrance.fr) - Growing tension over a judicial inquiry into the explosion in the port ofBeirut last year threatened to plunge Lebanon into yet another political crisis, testing Prime Minister Najib Mikati's new government as he struggles to pull the country out of economic collapse.
More than a year since the explosion ravaged Beirut, killing more than 200 people, Judge Tarek Bitar's efforts to hold senior officials to account for alleged negligence face a growing political push.
Ministers aligned with politicians Bitar asked to question should press demand for his impeachment when of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, after the subject disrupted a stormy session on Tuesday .
It 'sa big distraction that risks undermining Mikati, who took office on last month after morea year of wrangling for seats of government as Lebanon slipped into one of the world's worst economic depressions, analysts say.
The dispute also underlined the major influence of Hezbollah, the heavily armed Iran-backed Shiite group, which has called to replace Bitar , accusing him of having conducted a politicized investigation of certain people.
The most senior politician Bitar sought to interview, former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, said all options were open for a political escalation when asked in an interview on Tuesday if some ministers could resign.
Khalil is the right-hand man of the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri - the highest ranking Shiite in Etat - and a close ally of Hezbollah. Khalil told al-Mayadeen TV the path the probe thre attempted to push Lebanon "towards civil war ".
Hezbollah and his Shiite ally Amal withdrew their ministers from government in times of political crisis. conflict, a move that would torpedo the Sunni-led cabinet by stripping it of Shia representation.
Mikati previously said that Lebanon could not bear the loss of a second judge after the first investigator 's dismissal in February when a court accepted a complaint questioning his impartiality.
Mikati's priority is to relaunch negotiations with the IMF to save Lebanon. But not long ago, with elections slated for next spring.
Crisis Group 's Heiko Wimmen saidare that the argument would "drain the energy and also make (Mikati) look weak ". "This puts a huge question mark, or adds one, to the doubts that everyone already has regarding the viability of this government. "
Hezbollah was" showing its brutal influence and strength and this certainly reflects badly on the Mikati government, "he said. added Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
The government is doing it. does not have the power to impeach Bitar but could revoke a previous decision that transferred the investigation to the judicial council, said Nizar Saghieh, head of Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization. It would be a major attack on "the separation of powers ".
Foreign states from which Lebanon hopes to get help have requested a transparent investigation into the explosion, caused by a huge amount of dangerously stored Ammonium Nitrate.
The US State Department has accused Hezbollah, which it considers a terrorist organization, of threatening justice.
All former officials Bitar sought to question on suspicion of negligence deny any wrongdoing. Among them, Hassan Diab, the prime minister at the time of the explosion.
Critics of Bitar say he broke the constitution by prosecuting senior officials against whom all cases must go through a special process for presidents and ministers. Written by Tom Perry, edited by William Maclean
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