Lebanon News

United States, France reiterate support for STL

BEIRUT: The US has reiterated support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) and to the country’s stability amid ongoing regional and internal talks to seek an end to the standoff between Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s coalition and Hizbullah over the UN-backed court.

“Secretary Hillary Clinton called Lebanese President Michel Sleiman earlier today to reaffirm the strong commitment of the US to Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, and stability,” a statement by the US State Department said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the latest political developments with Sleiman, “including the troubling rise of tensions in Lebanon,” and conveyed “the Obama administration’s steadfast support for the development of strong and effective Lebanese state institutions,” the statement added.

Clinton’s support for the STL is the second stand made public in less than a week after a brief visit Sunday by her assistant for Middle East Affairs to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, where he held talks with Sleiman. A US State Department official said Feltman’s visit to France Thursday was in line with French-US efforts to reduce tensions.

Echoing Clinton, French Ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton reiterated his country’s support for Lebanon against ongoing challenges, a statement by the Phalange Party said following a meeting between party leader Amin Gemayel and Pietton at the French Embassy.

For his part, Gemayel said Wednesday night following a dinner at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut that the Islamic Republic was a very influential state in the region, and was expected to play a positive role in supporting stability in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, as The Daily Star went to press, there were unconfirmed reports that Hariri was to meet Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah Thursday evening.

Speaker Nabih Berri, who held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus Wednesday, reportedly mediated efforts to set up the meeting in line with Saudi-Syrian talks Sunday in Riyadh in a bid to preserve stability in Lebanon.

In line with regional efforts to ease tensions in Lebanon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Saudi King Abdullah during a phone call that the aim of his visit to Lebanon last week was to promote its unity, his office said Thursday.

Ahmadinejad’s visit has sparked controversy and was described by March 14 groups as a visit to an Iranian advanced base on the Mediterranean, with Hizbullah as its proxy in the war against Israel.

Hizbullah’s deputy secretary general, Sheikh Naim Qassem, reiterated the demand by March 8 forces to refer the issue of false witnesses to the Justice Council, while Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal said Hizbullah and its allies had exploited the issue to pave the way for a campaign against the STL.

“Addressing the issue of false witnesses is a priority to strengthen the Lebanese scene against international meddling, fabricated news and false accusations, whereas maneuvers relying on support by foreign powers will not work,” Qassem said.

But Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea reiterated that on one hand, the issue of false witnesses could not be tackled before the STL indictment is released while on the other, the Justice Council had no jurisdiction to look into the case.





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