Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman has on Thursday asked the outgoing cabinet to continue in office in a caretaker capacity after the government collapsed on Wednesday following the resignation of more than one-third ministers.

“Since one third of the cabinet members quit, the government is now considered resigned,” Mr. Suleiman said in a statement, “For this reason, I request the caretaker government to carry out its duties until a new one is formed.”

Eleven cabinet ministers belonging to Hizbollah and its allies resigned on Wednesday over the international investigation on the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. They said the prime minister had rejected their demand that an urgent cabinet session be called to discuss the government’s withdrawal from all co-operation with the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). The Hizbollah has for long been saying that the STL would wrongly indict it for Hariri’s assassination.

The indictments are expected to be released next week, though a delay in this process cannot be ruled out, observers say.

Analysts point out that indictment of Hizbollah in the Hariri’s assassination is likely to surge sectarian tensions between the Shia group and Lebanon’s Sunni community to which the late Hariri belonged, thus evoking fears of resurrection of the bloody Lebanese civil war.

In Washington, where the outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri was present on Wednesday, the U.S. President Barack Obama slammed Hizbollah for causing the government’s collapse. In a statement, the White House accused Hizbollah for “demonstrating their own fear and determination to block the government’s ability to conduct its business and advance the aspirations of all of the Lebanese people.”

Mr. Hariri later left for Paris for consultations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the region, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, on Wednesday discussed over telephone, the developments in Lebanon with Mr. Hariri, Saudi Arabia’s state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. On his part, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Mr. Suleiman on Thursday. An editorial in the Al Quds Al Arabi, a Palestinian daily in Arabic out of London, said that “(a) stage of escalation has started” in Lebanon.

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