Beirut urges UN to impose Hariri trial

Lebanese gov't fails to win opposition support for int'l tribunal into murder.

April 4, 2007 22:10
2 minute read.
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Parliament's anti-Syrian majority has called on the UN to impose an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri after the government failed to win opposition support for its creation. The anti-Syrian coalition's call late Tuesday on the world body to take "alternative measures" to approve the tribunal amounted to an invitation to the UN Security Council to independently establish it. It appears aimed at bypassing the legislature after its speaker, key opposition leader Nabih Berri, has refused to call it into session to ratify the tribunal. It also could be an attempt by the majority to put pressure on the opposition to change course. The move prompted a warning from Hizbullah that such international intervention threatens Lebanon's security and stability. "This is not a game. This is an international foreign intervention in the internal affairs which threatens the security and stability of Lebanon," Hizbullah lawmaker Hussein Haj Hassan said in a telephone interview with LBC television. Haj Hassan's comments came a day after the deputy leader of the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hizbullah, Sheik Naim Kassem, warned that a UN-imposed tribunal will be "a court against Lebanon and not to try the killers of Premier Hariri." Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and son of the slain leader, presented a memorandum to Geir Pederson, the UN representative in Lebanon, during a meeting late Tuesday, demanding UN action to establish the tribunal. Signed by 70 of parliament's 128 members, the memorandum seeks UN action in line with a draft agreement signed in 2006 between the government and the United Nations. Hariri and his supporters have demanded that the opposition endorse the creation of a "tribunal with an international character" that includes Lebanese and foreign judges. Hizbullah and its allies have declined. They want limits to the court's mandate. The memorandum, addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calls on the UN chief "to take all alternative measures under the UN Charter which ensure the establishment of the international tribunal which has been approved by the Security Council in order to achieve justice, strengthen national peace and protect world justice and peace," according to a statement issued by Hariri's office. In New York, UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban received a memorandum from 70 Lebanese parliamentarians and was "studying it." She said that Ban "continues to be concerned by the political impasse in Lebanon" and remains "convinced that the preferred path toward justice is through the fulfillment of the Lebanese constitutional process." During a visit here last week, Ban stressed the need for Lebanese consensus on the question of the tribunal. While in Lebanon, "all his interlocutors expressed to him their support for a process that would bring to justice those responsible" for Hariri's killing, Montas said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, current president of the European Union, visited Beirut this week and backed the formation of the tribunal. Both the EU and the United States are major backers of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government and the parliamentary majority. Politicians from the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority have accused Syria of attempting to undermine the country's independence through its allies in Lebanon's opposition. They say Syria, which they blame for Hariri's 2005 assassination, wants to scuttle the formation of the court. Syria has denied the accusations. Differences between the two camps have led to outbreaks of violence on two occasions in recent months, killing nine people.

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