BEIRUT: A Cabinet session to discuss the issue of “false witnesses” Wednesday was postponed after Prime Minister Saad Hariri delayed his return from an official visit to London.
The postponement of the Cabinet session cast a shadow of doubt on whether the meeting of the National Dialogue committee scheduled for Thursday would take place.
While Hizbullah escalated its position, warning of an “explosive situation” if the UN-backed Tribunal indicts some of its members, Hariri’s Future Movement parliamentary bloc also stepped up its stances, describing the court as the sole authorized party to identify “so-called false witnesses.”
Last month, the Future Movement and its allies agreed to the investigation of “false witnesses” by the Lebanese judiciary but March 8 parties still insist the issue should be referred to the Judicial Council, which March 14 groups say lacks jurisdiction to investigate the issue.
Hizbullah’s number two Sheikh Naim Qassem refused to disclose steps his party would take if the STL indictment accuses Hizbullah members in the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri “since the possibilities are numerous.”
Qassem upped the ante further during a televised interview with the BBC Arabic service, highlighting that such an indictment would be an “alarming, explosive and dangerous spark” in Lebanon that might lead to negative repercussions.
But a statement released following the Future Movement bloc meeting said attempts to obstruct justice and hinder the STL’s work were not acceptable and threatened Lebanon’s stability and future.
In a sharper tone, March 14 MP and Labor Minister Butros Harb called for the withdrawal of the issue of “false witnesses” from ministerial discussions since no law suit has been filed before the Lebanese judiciary against any individuals for giving false testimonies.
But prior to the decision to postpone the government meeting, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun threatened to boycott the National Dialogue Committee session if the issue of “false witnesses” is not discussed Wednesday.
In reference to Hizbullah’s statements, Harb said provoking civil strife would not serve in defending the resistance.
“Those who are committed to justice are not agents for Israel or against the resistance,” he said.
Following an incident between STL investigators and women at a medical clinic in Beirut’s southern suburbs last week, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called on Lebanese to boycott STL investigators, warning that cooperation was akin to an attack against the resistance.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told The Washington Post that Syria needs to pressure Iran and Hizbullah to restrain their activities in Lebanon if Damascus wants to rebuild ties with the US.
In a bid to ease tensions between Hariri’s coalition and Hizbullah, the Syrian, Saudi and Iranian ambassadors held talks at the Syrian embassy. “Preserving Lebanon’s unity is of the utmost importance and that has always been the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Rokanabadi told LBC television. “We felt that Syria and Saudi Arabia held the same position,” Roknabadi said.