Friday, June 01, 2007

Look for Syria to continue to plague lebanon

May 31, 2007 - 4:00 PM Syria may trouble Lebanon after U.N. vote By Nadim LadkiBEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria could spark trouble in Lebanon in response to a U.N. Security Council vote to set up a tribunal to try the killers of Rafik al-Hariri, the former prime minister's son said on Thursday.Pro-Syrian politicians and parties, including President Emile Lahoud and Hezbollah, said the United Nations had ridden roughshod over Lebanon's constitution and could provoke further divisions in a country still haunted by its 1975-90 civil war.The Security Council voted on Wednesday to set up the court after failed efforts to get its statutes constitutionally approved in Lebanon, where a political crisis has paralysed normal government for months. Syria said after the vote that it could lead to more instability in Lebanon.Saad al-Hariri, the son and political heir of the slain premier, told Reuters the tribunal would end the impunity that political assassins have enjoyed in Lebanon for four decades."How could the tribunal affect the security of Lebanon? How could punishing the people who killed Rafik al-Hariri... affect the security of Lebanon?" Hariri said in an interview."If Lebanon is going to be unstable it is the doing of those who say that Lebanon is going to be unstable," he said."They (the Syrians) won't be able to destabilise us because they tried before and they have failed."Hariri and his allies in the governing coalition accuse Syria of orchestrating the February 14, 2005 bombing which killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut. They also say Damascus was behind a string of other attacks on anti-Syrian figures.Syria rejects the accusations. President Bashar al-Assad has vowed not to hand over any Syrian citizens to the U.N.-backed tribunal, saying any Syrian suspects will be tried at home.Lebanon's President Lahoud said the Security Council's move could prove divisive."We hope the tribunal of international character will not be, in the way in which its statutes have been approved, a reason for more distance between the Lebanese," he said.Efforts to set up the tribunal have been at the heart of a deep rift between pro-Syrian politicians and others who see the court as a means to curb Syrian influence in Lebanon."INTERNATIONALISATION"Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, another ally of Syria, has refused to convene the assembly to vote on the court statutes because he contests the legitimacy of the government, which is controlled by anti-Syrian leaders and backed by Western states.Berri said the U.N. vote had ignored Lebanon's constitution and the need for Lebanese consensus. "You have picked internationalisation instead of the state," Berri said.A Hezbollah statement said the council vote had "opened the door to international interference and hegemony" in Lebanon and that the resolution had breached national and international law.Hariri said opposition leaders, including Berri and Hezbollah's Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, were being threatened by Syria and coerced into opposing the tribunal."What we would like to see the opposition do is to stop being afraid," he said. "What kills me is that a party like Hezbollah is not afraid of Israel but they are afraid of Syria."Syria's allies in Lebanon have argued that the United States will use the tribunal as a political tool against Damascus.Together, Berri's Amal movement and Hezbollah represent most of Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslims, giving the standoff a sectarian dimension and fuelling tension between Sunnis and Shi'ites.Hezbollah and its allies have always said they support the tribunal in principle but wanted to discuss its mandate.Hariri was killed by a suicide truck bomb attack as his motorcade drove along Beirut's seafront corniche. The road was opened on Thursday for the first time since the attack.

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