Al-Qaida threatens to topple Lebanese government

PM Saniora's cabinet approves UN draft on international tribunal to try Hariri suspects.

rafik hariri 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
rafik hariri 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Al-Qaida has purportedly issued a statement threatening to topple Lebanon's "corrupt" Western-backed government, according to a London-based Arabic newspaper Monday. The Al-Hayat newspaper reported that al-Qaida issued the statement from the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon. "The organization has arrived in Lebanon and we will work on destroying this corrupt government that receives orders from the American administration," Al-Hayat said, quoting the statement. Although it was impossible to verify the authenticity of the message, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi cast doubt on its veracity Monday. "There is nothing that proves that this statement was issued by al-Qaida," he told reporters Monday. Aridi suggested the statement could be the work of local or regional groups that were opposed to the international tribunal in an attempt to intimidate the ministers ahead of the vote on Monday. Al-Hayat did not say how it obtained the message. Although al-Qaida has rarely carried out attacks in Lebanon, it is believed to have sympathizers among extremist factions in Palestinian refugee camps. Lebanon's Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat has warned in recent months that al-Qaida was attempting to establish itself in Lebanon. In December, al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for a rocket attack into northern Israel apparently carried out by a radical Palestinian group, and Fatfat has said Lebanese authorities had broken up four al-Qaida cells this year Earlier Monday, the Lebanese government approved a UN draft setting up an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora announced. "We unanimously approved the draft," the prime minister told a news conference after a three-hour meeting. "We tell the criminals that we will not give up our rights, no matter what the difficulties and obstacles are," he said. "Our only aim is to achieve justice and only justice. Without it and without knowing the truth, the Lebanese will not rest and we cannot protect our democratic system and political freedom now and in the future." Saniora, whose anti-Syrian majority dominates the Cabinet, convened the session Monday over the president's objections and despite resignations of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shi'ite Muslim who quit in a dispute with the prime minister. But the resignations cast a shadow over the decision because Shi'ites were not represented in the Cabinet as required by Lebanon's delicate distribution of political power among its Christian and Muslim sects. Hariri was killed in a truck bombing last year that was blamed by supporters on Syria.