Lebanon's president asked Saad al-Hariri to stay on as caretaker prime minister on Thursday after Hezbollah ministers and their allies resigned in a dispute over an investigation into the killing of Hariri's father.
A statement issued by President Michel Suleiman called on the government to "continue in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed".
Hariri, who was meeting U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington when his fragile, 14-month-old unity government collapsed on Wednesday, was due to hold talks in Paris later on Thursday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The resignations of the 11 ministers came despite the efforts of regional powers Saudi Arabia and Syria to forge a deal to reduce tension over the U.N.-backed investigation into Rafik al-Hariri's 2005 assassination.
The tribunal prosecutor is expected to send draft indictments to a pre-trial judge this month, implicating some members of Hezbollah. Hezbollah denies any role in the killing and had called on Hariri to withdraw Lebanon's funding for and cooperation with the tribunal -- a demand which he rejected.
The Saudi-Syrian proposals were never spelt out by either country. According to a politician close to Hariri, they would have included a Hezbollah pledge not to resort to violence if its members were indicted, while Hariri would ensure that any indictment was not exploited to Hezbollah's political detriment.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said that while Hariri's killers should be punished, any immediate move to hand down indictments naming Hezbollah could inflame matters further.
"The tribunal should be above politics and justice should have its say and Lebanon must have a government," Moussa said in the Qatari capital of Doha on Thursday.
"But since we were waiting for several years, why not six more months of time in order to defuse the situation? ... It is very threatening," he said.
Officials have declined to say whether Hariri, whose coalition won a 2009 parliamentary election, will be asked to form a new government, or if someone else would be nominated.
Hezbollah and its allies accused the United States of foiling attempts by Saudi Arabia and Syria to find a solution.
Hezbollah minister Mohammad Fneish blamed the United States for obstructing attempts by Riyadh and Damascus to find a solution.
"There were Arab efforts that gave us the chance to work positively... These efforts have not worked because of American intervention," he said.
Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University in Beirut, said Washington had "vetoed" the Saudi-Syrian initiative and there was little prospect of a new government being formed quickly.
Related news reports:Last Mod: 13 Ocak 2011, 11:04