Obama welcomes first indictment in Hariri assassination

Names not publicized, amid reports Khamenei is among them; Israeli officials watch events in Lebanon unfurl but are careful not to comment so as not to be seen as intervening; Hizbullah blames US for indictment.

January 18, 2011 04:48
2 minute read.
US President Barack Obama.

Obama serious 311. (photo credit: AP)

US President Barack Obama has welcomed the first indictment in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

In a statement Monday, Obama called the indictment by a UN tribunal in Lebanon an important step toward ending the era of impunity for murder in the country and achieving justice for its people.

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He called on all Lebanese leaders and factions to preserve calm and exercise restraint.

The US president said the Special Tribunal for Lebanon must now be allowed to continue its work without interference and coercion.

"Any attempt to fuel tensions and instability, in Lebanon or in the region, will only undermine the very freedom and aspirations that the Lebanese people seek and that so many nations support,"  Obama stated.

The prosecutor of the tribunal filed the first indictment in the case on Monday.

Details of suspects named in the indictment and the charges against them were not released.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be indicted for giving the order to kill Hariri in February 2005, and Lebanese news sources reported that Hizbullah members who planned and carried out the assassination would also be named.

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Israeli officials continue to watch the events in Lebanon unfurl, but have been careful not to comment on the developments so as not to be seen as intervening one way or the other.

One source said that a finger pointed at Khamenei – although it would be a major news story – would be unlikely to change international attitudes toward Iran significantly, because the country is already “in the world’s dog house.”

Most of the world already knows what Iran is capable of doing, the source said, while other countries that support Iran – like Venezuela – would not be swayed one way or the other.

Revelations of Iranian involvement would also be unlikely to change anything inside Lebanon, for the simple reason that everyone there knows very well the closeness of the Iranian- Hizbullah ties, the sources said.

Hariri was killed along with 22 other people by a huge truck bomb blast on February 14, 2005, on Beirut’s Mediterranean sea front.

On Monday evening, Hizbullah blamed the US for the indictment.

According to the Hizbullah-aligned television station Al-Manar, “Washington pushed the indictments in order to light the fuse that will blow up the bridges that were built in order to find a solution” after the Lebanese government collapsed last week.

Tribunal registrar Herman van Hebel said in a statement that prosecutor Daniel Bellemare had sent the indictments to Judge Daniel Fransen, who must decide whether to confirm or dismiss them or ask for more evidence.

News of the indictment comes as Lebanon’s government has been plunged into turmoil by the resignation last week of Hizbullah and its allies from a broad coalition led by Hariri’s son Saad, who remains caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.

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