Lebanon News

Hariri denies Iran offered to act as domestic mediator

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri was quoted Friday as denying any proposal was made by the Iranian president to broker a political compromise over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), in a meeting held on Thursday, during which the premier reiterated commitment to the Cabinet’s policy statement.

Hariri made his remarks, according to a March 14 source, ahead of Wednesday’s government session when debate over issues relating to the STL is expected to resume after a truce in the media between rival parties in line with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Beirut.

“Hariri described the atmosphere of his discussions with Ahmadinejad as friendly, positive and honest,” the source, said of the premier’s comments during a meeting of the Future Movement bloc on Friday.

Ahmadinejad, who left for Tehran on Thursday, held talks with the premier earlier that day, during which they addressed the ongoing debate over the STL.

But officials of both parties denied that Iran has proposed to mediate a compromise between Hariri and Hizbullah over the UN-backed Tribunal.

Hizbullah has condemned the STL as an Israeli project and accused the court of seeking to frame the party for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, saying the STL’s indictment would implicate Hizbullah members.

“Hariri stressed to Ahmadinejad his commitment to the ministerial statement in all its internal, Arab and international aspects,” the source from the Future Movement bloc said.

Following Hizbullah’s position to block Lebanon’s funding of the STL, lawmakers of the Future Movement have threatened to withdraw support for the article highlighting the right of “the resistance, army and people” to resist Israeli aggression.

The Future Movement argued that the Cabinet’s ministerial statement voiced commitment to support the STL like its commitment to the resistance’s right alongside the army to face Israel.

The sources said discussions between Hariri and Ahmadinejad stressed the need to commit to a calm discourse in Lebanon and uphold stability as a priority.

On Friday, Hariri held talks at his residence in Downtown Beirut with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. 

In line with efforts to bridge the gap between March 14 parties and March 8 parties, Transportation and Works Minister Ghazi Aridi, a Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) official, held talks Friday with Marada Movement leader Sleiman Franjieh.

Aridi said bridging the gap between domestic parties was as important as the rapprochement between regional powerbrokers Syria and Saudi Arabia in order to preserve stability in Lebanon.

Recently, Aridi traveled between Damascus and Riyadh, with PSP leader MP Walid Jumblatt, a former member of the March 14 coalition who moved closer to Hizbullah and Syria, acting as a delegate, in attempts to reach an understanding on a compromise among the Lebanese over disputed issues.

Endorsing Aridi’s position, Franjieh said Lebanese parties should refrain from provocative discourse to reduce unwanted tensions.

In line with effort to promote dialogue, Hariri held talks on Thursday night with Speaker Nabih Berri’s top political aid, MP Ali Hassan Khalil, but no information about the meeting was made available to the press.

Ministers loyal to Berri have threatened to suspend their participation in Cabinet sessions if the issue of “false witnesses” is not discussed on Wednesday.

Well-informed sources told The Daily Star that ministers loyal to March 8 parties still hold on to their demand to refer the issue to the Justice Council.

But ministers of the majority say that the issue falls outside the prerogatives of the council as confirmed by a Justice Ministry’s report. Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said in a report that the Lebanese judiciary can rule on the issue of false witnesses but added that the issue falls outside the Justice Council’s jurisdiction.

Elsewhere, President Michel Sleiman said Friday that the National Dialogue Committee is scheduled to convene on November 4.





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