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Lebanese PM says he'll survive Cabinet resignations

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Wednesday his government will survive despite the resignations of six Cabinet ministers this week.

"I know that some are saying that it's on the verge of collapse," Siniora said. "But there are many others who are definitely saying that this government is quite representative of the people and has the majority of the members of parliament."

All five Shiite Muslim ministers and one Christian in the 24-member Cabinet resigned in advance of Monday's vote that approved the creation of an international tribunal to probe the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. (Full story)

The remaining 18 ministers unanimously backed the creation of the tribunal over the objections of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and the Syrian- and the political arm of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, whose four ministers were among those who resigned.

U.N. investigators have linked Syria to the death of Hariri and 22 other people on February, 14, 2005, when an explosion was set off near his motorcade. Damascus denies any involvement, and Hezbollah says Syria's accusers have no evidence to back up their claims.

Support for the tribunal by Siniora, who became prime minister amid a wave of protests over the assassination, has triggered a deepening political crisis that has raised questions about his government's future.

Siniora's allies -- including Saad Hariri, the slain leader's son -- said the Cabinet resignations were part of a Syrian-Iranian plot to block the tribunal and "create a little bit of uncertainty in Lebanon."

Pro-Syrian leaders have argued the depleted Cabinet lacks the power to make decisions, because Lebanon's constitution calls for all the country's sects to be represented in the government. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said Siniora's government has "zero credibility," and Amal leader Nabih Berri, the country's parliament speaker, called it illegitimate.

But Siniora told CNN his critics are trying to bring down his government and establish "a tyranny of the minority" in Lebanon, a situation he called "contrary to any basic democratic behavior."

"This country is a country of minorities, and no one single group can take the country wherever it needs," he said. "This country really has to be governed by consensus, and this is the experience I have had with my government."

Siniora rejected calls for new elections, telling CNN, "I will continue to be prime minister, as I am enjoying the confidence of the parliament."

Hariri's assassination led to a wave of anti-Syrian protests, dubbed the "Cedar Revolution," and the withdrawal of Syria's military from Lebanon. Syria had dominated Lebanon since 1976, when Syrian troops entered in the early days of Lebanon's civil war.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora says that despite six resignations in his Cabinet, his government is still representative of the Lebanese people.


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