On Monday, the 15-member Security Council demanded that the Lebanese government should disarm Hizb Allah's guerrillas in line with a resolution the council adopted 16 months ago.

 

Mohammed Fneish, the energy and water minister, said on Tuesday: "This is a continuation of the American pressure to achieve the goal of enabling Israel to continue to occupy [Lebanese and Arab] territories and to expose Lebanon to Israeli schemes.

 

"It is an insult to all Lebanese that the resistance is called a militia. If we tell them this is a resistance and not a militia, it'll prevent such interference in our affairs."

 

Fneish's call is central to a government crisis that saw him and four other Shia Muslim ministers boycott cabinet sessions in December.

 

"It is an insult to all Lebanese that the resistance is called a militia. If we tell them this is a resistance and not a militia, it'll prevent such interference in our affairs"

Mohammed Fneish,
energy and water minister

They linked their return to a demand that Hizb Allah's armed wing should be considered legitimate and not a militia that must disarm.

 

The ministers, all pro-Syrian, suspended attending cabinet sessions over a cabinet vote calling on the UN inquiry into last year's assassination of Rafik al-Hariri the former Lebanese prime minister, to include other political killings.

 

Disarmament

 

Hizb Allah was instrumental in ending Israel's 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000. But calls for its disarmament have grown louder since its Syrian allies withdrew from Lebanon in April, amid an international outcry over al-Hariri's murder.

 

The UN want Emile Lahoud to be
replaced in new elections

Fneish also condemned the UN council's call on Lebanon to conduct fair and free presidential elections to replace Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian Lebanese president, who secured a three-year extension of his mandate in 2004 under pressure from Damascus.

 

Fneish said: "This is an attempt to shake our stability. The Security Council has no business interfering in a domestic constitutional matter."

 

There was no comment from Lahoud's office.

 

Many in Lebanon believe that Syria's pressure to renew the president's term sparked a direct collision with al-Hariri that led to his death.

 

Damascus has denied any role but the UN inquiry has already implicated senior Syrian officials.