Lebanon’s Governing Coalition Collapses
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KWAME HOLMAN: The governing coalition in Lebanon collapsed today. Cabinet ministers from the militant Islamic group Hezbollah and its allies resigned. They cited a U.N.-backed investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister, in 2005. The inquiry is widely expected to indict members of Hezbollah.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the resignations as she visited the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: We view what happened today as a transparent effort by those forces inside Lebanon, as well as interests outside of Lebanon, to subvert justice and undermine Lebanon’s stability and progress.
KWAME HOLMAN: The announcement came as Lebanon’s pro-Western prime minister, Saad Hariri, son of the late leader, was in Washington. He cut short his visit and flew home to meet the crisis.
In Afghanistan, five NATO soldiers were killed in roadside bombings and other attacks. So far this year, 17 foreign troops have died in the fighting, including at least eight Americans. Taliban militants also carried out attacks today on members of the Afghan intelligence service. Four people were killed and more than 30 wounded.
The violence in Afghanistan broke out shortly after Vice President Biden left Kabul for neighboring Pakistan. There, he met with Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad. And he spoke to concerns that the U.S. infringes on Pakistani sovereignty with attacks by drone aircraft.
U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: I would respectfully suggest that it is the extremists who violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and corrupt its good name.
Our goal is to work with your leaders, and you, Mr. Prime Minister, to restore and strengthen sovereignties in those areas of your country where extremists have violated it.
KWAME HOLMAN: As the vice president was visiting the country, a suicide car bomber killed 18 people in northwestern Pakistan. And two roadside bombs exploded near a van carrying schoolchildren outside Peshawar. Two teachers in the van were killed.
Haiti marked the first anniversary today of the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation. And the prime minister raised the death toll to more than 316,000.
We have a report from Bill Neely of Independent Television News.
BILL NEELY: When the sun rose on this day a year ago, Haitians had no idea it would be their last day, that the earth was about to crack and pulverize an entire city.
Today, the survivors awoke to a life they never dreamed of and a day they had dreaded. Of the 1,200 camps, three-quarters get no help from charities. The 40,000 people who live here amidst squalor are lucky they have clean water. A charity helps them, but not their government.
MAN: We are here. We don’t know when we’re going to leave here. The government, it never come here to talk with the people.
BILL NEELY: They’re not just remembering the dead today. They’re still digging them out. One year on, and the body of an old lady, Mrs. Hector, is pulled from the rubble of her home, one of eight that collapsed here. Her neighbors have no idea where her family is now, and they’re not sure what to do with the body.
There will be many more scenes like this in the future, because it’s thought there are not hundreds or thousands, but tens of thousands of bodies buried in the rubble here. Haiti simply doesn’t have enough heavy equipment to get them out.
Blessings today for the dead and the living at a service next to the ruins of the National Cathedral, where so many were killed. Across the capital, hundreds of thousands are marking the day of their disaster with a show of sheer energy, life and joy.
A solemn Bill Clinton marked the day here watching Haiti’s president lay a wreath at a government office. One-third of all Haiti’s public officials were killed in the quake. There’s years of work to do here. The rubble-clearing goes on, even on this day, the anniversary of Haiti’s worst catastrophe.
KWAME HOLMAN: Billions of dollars in aid have been pledged to Haiti. But, to date, the work of reconstruction has barely begun.
Russian investigators today blamed the Poles for a plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski last April. He and 95 others died when their jetliner went down trying to land in western Russia in heavy fog. The Russians concluded the crew was pressured to land, despite the bad weather, by a Polish air-force commander who had been drinking.
TATYANA ANODINA, chairwoman, Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (through translator): According to the conclusion made by flight experts and aviation psychologists, including Polish ones, the presence of Poland’s air-force commander in the pilot’s cabin had a psychological influence on the commander’s decision to take an unjustified risk by continuing the descent, with the overwhelming goal of landing by all means necessary.
KWAME HOLMAN: Polish officials said the report failed to note that Russian air-traffic controllers may have made mistakes that contributed to the crash.
A powerful winter storm extended its reach to New England today, after leaving an icy mess in the South. The snow was heaviest in Massachusetts and Connecticut, where upwards of two feet fell. And it had a ripple effect on flights across the country, with nearly 2,000 canceled.
Crews in New York City were able to clear the streets quickly. A snowstorm after Christmas had paralyzed the city for days. The snow wasn’t enough to keep Wall Street down. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 83 points, to close at 11,755. The Nasdaq rose 20 points to close at 2,737.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.