Lebanon News

UN: STL moving ahead regardless of funding

BEIRUT: The UN Secretary General’s spokesman Martin Nesirky reiterated Tuesday the UN’s support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) amid ongoing debate among rival Lebanese parties over the court’s credibility.

“Well, I think we would simply reaffirm our belief in the importance of the work of the STL. That’s the most important point,” he said.

Hizbullah and its allies have sought to block Lebanon’s funding of the STL by threatening to vote in the Cabinet against the 2011 draft budget article relating to the issue.

The controversy drove President Michel Sleiman to push for the postponement of deliberations on the matter.

Mesirky stressed that the UN Security Council would strive to guarantee that the STL could continue its work through alternative funding sources.

“The tribunal operates under a mandate from the Security Council, and we would strive to ensure that it can go about its work. And also, I’d note the role of the Tribunal’s management committee in that process,” he said.

Well-informed ministerial sources told The Daily Star Tuesday that the issue of funding for the STL would not be discussed during Wednesday’s government session in line with an agreement struck on Monday between Sleiman and Premier Saad Hariri to allow the president time to reach a compromise over disputed issues.

The source said the postponement of deliberations aimed to allow time for regional and internal contacts to reach a breakthrough in the stalemate and avoid further escalation.

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Assiri held talks with Sleiman, Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri on Tuesday while Transportation and Works Minister Ghazi al-Aridi, delegated by Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, headed to Damascus to bridge the gap between Hariri and Syria.

It remains unclear how a vote in the Cabinet over the article relating to the STL funding would play out since ministers loyal to Hizbullah and its allies number 10 out of 30, leaving them one vote short of the power to veto the article. One of two ministers loyal to Jumblatt, who has moved closer to Syria and its ally Hizbullah, or one of the five ministers loyal to Sleiman could vote alongside opposition forces to block the STL funding.

Separately, conflicting reports emerged Tuesday over the re-enactment of the explosion that killed former Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005 in Beirut in a military location near the French town of Bordeaux that was scheduled by the STL’s prosecutor to take place on October 5 and 6. While some reports indicated that the re-enactment of the murder took place away from the media, others said the test was postponed since the French authorities decided to simulate the crime at a later time away from media outlets.

Earlier this month, As-Safir reported that France had cancelled a planned re-enactment of the blast that killed Hariri, amid concern over the country’s relationship with Hizbullah.

Hizbullah has condemned the STL as an Israeli project, casting doubt on the credibility of its investigations and accusing it of fabricating an impending indictment to implicate Hizbullah members in the murder as part of a plot aimed against the resistance.

“France is moving toward cancelling the re-enactment of [Hariri’s] assassination,” the paper quoted an unidentified French security source as saying.

It added that a French engineering firm had already finished constructing a stage designed to recreate the St. George area of Downtown Beirut through which Hariri’s motorcade passed in the seconds before a car bomb detonated on February 14, 2005.

When asked whether the re-enactment took place, the STL’s office spokesperson told The Daily Star that it was not within the prosecutor’s office prerogatives to confirm or deny the issue.

The spokesperson of the STL’s prosecutor office was not available to comment on the issue.





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