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LEBANON: Government split down the middle on latest U.N. sanctions on Iran

June 10, 2010 | 10:28 am

Lebanese councilLebanon's government split into two rival camps, deeply divided on whether to abstain or oppose the latest round of United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran. Though Lebanon ultimately abstained from the vote, the question of how Lebanon as a country should view Iran unearthed domestic political fissures.

The Cabinet of Ministers failed to reach consensus on the sanction issue, with 14 in favor of abstention and 14 opposed to sanctions. Lebanon's Ambassador to the United Nations, Nawaf Salam, had to keep the Security Council waiting for an hour until Beirut gave him directions on how to vote. Ultimately, Lebanon had no choice but to  abstain.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri was "not satisfied" with the outcome, arguing that Lebanon's unique stance only diplomatically distanced it from the 12 states which did support sanctions and that the abstention made no material difference, reported Naharnet. The Hezbollah-led opposition ardently opposed the resolution. 

"We are a country that has interests with the international community. We are facing the issue of the renewal of UNIFIL's [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] mandate in the summer and have friendly countries that are supporting us and backing our causes," Hariri explained.

The prime minister continued, "We can't take a stance that goes against the general trend at the Security Council because that would weaken our stance in the outside world."

However, Hezbollah immediately chastised the United Nations Security Council resolution as “unjust, partial, and contrary to the simplest principles of integrity and fairness,” as reported by Al-Manar.

Hezbollah argued that the sanctions "would exacerbate the resistive spirit of the downtrodden peoples, conglomerate their disappointment at the Security Council’s role to protect stability and prompt them to continue building their own abilities to preserve their independence and sovereignty.”

Lebanese media said sources close to President Michel Suleiman explained that the Cabinet split "was the best for the country because it helped it avoid being seen as the victor or vanquished." 

The refrain, "no victor, no vanquished," has dictated Lebanese sectarian politics since the close of the civil war, reminding parties that no one faction can ever dominate the country.

-- Becky Lee Katz in Beirut

Photo: The Council of Ministers argue their positions on the U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran. Credit: