Global Policy Forum

Memo Seeks UN Action in Hariri Case


By Sam F. Ghattas

Associated Press
April 4, 2007

Parliament's anti-Syrian majority has called on the U.N. 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 U.N. Security Council to independently establish it.

The move was expected to deepen differences between the two camps, which have led to sectarian violence twice in recent months, killing nine people. 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 parliamentary majority to put pressure on the Hezbollah-led opposition to change course. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah group is wary of international intervention. Its deputy leader, Sheik Naim Kassem, warned late Tuesday that a U.N.-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 U.N. representative in Lebanon, during a meeting late Tuesday, demanding U.N. action to establish the tribunal. Signed by 70 of parliament's 128 members, the memorandum seeks U.N. 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. Hezbollah and its allies have declined. They want limits to the court's mandate.

The memorandum, addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calls on the U.N. chief "to take all alternative measures under the U.N. 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. During a visit here last week, Ban stressed the need for Lebanese consensus on the question of the tribunal. 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.

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