- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2012

A senior member of the Lebanese Parliament has accused the government of colluding with assassins and said it must resign to prevent the country from drifting into chaos.

“We believe that this government now is a threat against the security of the country and the government is plotting with the murderers to kill us,” said Boutros Harb, a leader in the March 14 alliance, a coalition of Lebanese political parties and independent candidates that is opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“We are asking for the resignation of this government,” Mr. Harb said Monday at the Aspen Institute in Washington. “We cannot tolerate this government any more because this government is a danger that may put Lebanon in jeopardy.”

He said the government should be replaced by neutral technocrats.

The March 14 alliance is led by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a critic of Syria who was assassinated in 2005.

On Friday, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, an intelligence chief and outspoken critic of Syria, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut.

Mr. Harb himself escaped an attempt on his life in July.

Lebanese opposition leaders accuse Prime Minister Najib Mikati of being too close to Mr. Assad and his militant Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, which is part of the government in Beirut.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Sunday with Mr. Mikati and “noted the importance of political leaders working together at this sensitive juncture to ensure that calm prevails and that those responsible for the attack are brought to justice,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told journalists Monday.

On Monday, at least seven people were killed and dozens injured in gunbattles between Sunni protesters and the army in the streets of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and the northern coastal city of Tripoli.

The army urged political leaders to show restraint “because the fate of the nation is at stake.”

Recent developments “have proven without a doubt that the country is going through a decisive and critical time and the level of tension in some regions is rising to unprecedented levels,” the army said in a statement on Monday.

Al-Hassan’s assassination was further proof that Syria’s protracted civil war is spilling over its borders and threatening to engulf the region.

In Lebanon, it has pitted Sunnis against Shiite supporters of Mr. Assad, a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

“We’ve been clear for some time about the possibility of a possible spillover effect from the conflict in Syria,” Mr. Toner said.

The uprising against the Assad regime erupted in March 2011, and has resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 people, according to the United Nations. Syrian activists say the death toll exceeds 33,000.

The international community has been divided on how to try and end Syria’s civil war. Russia and China have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions on the matter.

Some Arab states have been arming the rebels. The U.S. has chosen to provide only nonlethal aid to the rebels.

Mr. Harb said the international community’s divided position has created an opportunity for extremists.

“I think that time is against the regime, but … time is against the democrats,” he said. “Bloodshed is in the interests of the fundamentalists. We are losing an opportunity, and I think the international community assume responsibility in giving this opportunity to the extremists.”

Meanwhile, an FBI team will travel to Lebanon to help in the investigation of Friday’s bombing, Mr. Toner said.