Lebanon News

Debate over STL resumes amid talks between regional powers

BEIRUT: Domestic debate over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) resumed Sunday as regional talks raced, on the heels of the Iranian president’s visit to Beirut, to broker a compromise among Lebanese rival parties ahead of Wednesday’s Cabinet session.

While March 14 officials reiterated criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two-day official visit to Beirut, Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt expressed faith in Syrian-Saudi talks as a guarantee of Lebanese stability.

Jumblatt said Sunday he had faith that the Syrian-Saudi summit in Riyadh would deliver results that would ease tensions among the Lebanese similarly to the Syrian-Lebanese-Saudi tripartite summit which was held in Beirut last July.

Syrian President Bashar Assad held talks in Riyadh on Sunday with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz on the political situation in Lebanon and the ongoing debate over the STL among other regional issues.

Echoing Jumblatt, Berri said Lebanon would be free of strife as long as ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia were in harmony.

During a tour in the mountainous Metn area, Jumblatt voiced support for the STL but reiterated his rejection of any indictment that could spur strife in Lebanon.

“We all stand with justice and no one ever denied justice but at the same time we all stand with stability,” Jumblatt said.

While media reports said that a Syrian-Lebanese summit was also being prepared in an effort to ease tensions, no information was made available on the timing of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s return to Beirut from Saudi Arabia.

Hariri landed in Riyadh on Saturday on a family visit, the National News Agency reported.

The premier is to participate in Wednesday’s Cabinet session when discussions over the issue of false witnesses are to be resumed with March 14 and March 8 forces holding on to their previous positions with regard to the issue.

A political source told The Daily Star that discussions would drag as no breakthrough is expected in the near future because of a failure to reach political consensus under the current circumstances.

The source added the outcome of the ministerial discussions, whether positive or negative, would reflect the outcomes of talks between Damascus, Riyadh and Beirut.

“Most political forces on the Lebanese scene and between Damascus, Riyadh and Beirut await the results of talks to settle the issue either through a compromise that satisfies all parties or the beginning of a new crisis with local and regional dimensions,” a source added.

However, Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said the political crisis in Lebanon extended beyond the issue of the STL to divisions over whether to adopt a strategy of resistance or surrender.

“The conflict today is between those who want to surrender and those who want to resist,” he said. “All those who carry weapons against the resistance are collaborators with the outside against Lebanon,” Aoun added, saying the decision of war and peace was only held by the US and Israel.

But Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed the need to restrict the decision of war and peace to the authority of the Lebanese state.

Geagea, in remarks published by French magazine Paris Match, downplayed the chance that Hizbullah would provoke a conflict with Israel under the current circumstances. He said Hizbullah’s objectives extended beyond Lebanon to serve Iran’s interests in its confrontation with the West.

“This [option] remains a possibility for the coalition embracing Syria, Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah that might launch a pre-emptive strike against Israel, the US or the West, a possibility which Ahmadinejad wanted to highlight during his visit to Lebanon,” Geagea said.





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