Lebanon News

Berri discusses STL concerns with French president

BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri said he has conveyed to French President Nicholas Sarkozy concerns about a lack of consensus among the Lebanese with regard to investigations by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), following talks with the French leader in Paris Thursday.

Berri told reporters he had discussed with Sarkozy a comprehensive solution to the political deadlock and both agreed to keep channels open between the two countries to coordinate future steps.

Asked whether France was still supportive of the STL, Berri said “no one is against justice but [there are debates] over the way to reach justice.”

Berri’s visit to France comes in the wake of rising tension over the STL, as the March 14 coalition continues to reiterate support for the UN-backed tribunal, a position endorsed by France and the US, while Hizbullah, an ally of Berri, condemns the court as a politicized entity.

Berri, who reportedly conveyed to French officials concerns from the March 8 coalition over the STL, said “the situation was stabilizing” with regard to Sarkozy’s position.

“The situation is becoming less tense and I believe President Sarkozy has intentions to visit Lebanon soon,” Berri said.

When asked whether Sarkozy agreed to suggestions he carried to Paris, Berri replied: “This question should be directed to him [Sarkozy] but I said that there is consensus in opinion and an agreement to keep contacts open.”

A statement carried by the National News Agency said Berri praised French support for stability and calm in Lebanon amid the critical circumstances the country is witnessing.

“There is great keenness on exchanging opinions on how to protect civil peace and accord among the Lebanese, accord in harmony with the state affairs in the region,” the statement said.

“I believe that the outcome of talks was excellent,” Berri said.

Berri’s spokesman, Ali Hamdan, told The Daily Star the speaker conveyed to the French president the need to support regional and inter-Arab understanding to preserve stability.

Hizbullah has said the STL is  set to frame members of its party in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In a bid to ease tensions over the STL,  Berri has conducted a series of regional and inter-Lebanese contacts to break the political deadlock in line with Saudi-Syrian rapprochement.

Prior to his visit to France, Berri last week held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad.






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