The deeply divided UN Security Council narrowly approved a resolution Wednesday to unilaterally establish an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The vote was 10-0 with five abstentions - Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar.
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Lebanon's pro-West Prime Minister Fuad Saniora asked the council earlier this month to establish the tribunal. He cited the refusal of opposition-aligned Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to convene a session to ratify the statutes to create the tribunal which have already been approved by his government and the United Nations.
The resolution gives the Lebanese parliament a last chance to establish the tribunal itself.
If it does not act by June 10, the UN-Lebanon agreement will automatically "enter into force," creating a tribunal outside Lebanon with a majority of international judges and an international prosecutor.
A 2005 report by a former chief investigator implicated Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in his assassination. Syria denied any involvement but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, accused of involvement in Hariri's murder, have been under arrest for 15 months.
Meanwhile, Hariri supporters celebrated the Security Council's decision.
But the government appeared fearful that the celebrations would turn violent between pro-government and opposition factions. The Interior Ministry banned the public from firing guns in the air, releasing fireworks and using motorcycles from 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) Wednesday to 5 a.m (0200 GMT) Thursday. Some of the bomb attacks in Lebanon have been blamed on assailants riding motorcycles.
Security forces were instructed to implement the measures and violators would be prosecuted, according to the ministry.
Hariri's son, Saad Hariri, also urged supporters to refrain from firing guns and called on them to exercise calm by staying home and lighting candles on balconies.
The slain leader's supporters began celebrating in Hariri's hometown in the southern city of Sidon more than six hours before the Security Council met in New York to vote on the tribunal resolution.
Carrying Lebanese flags and pictures of Hariri, supporters set up what they called "love checkpoints" in Sidon's main roads and intersections handing out sweets and flowers to motorists.