Lebanon News

Political deadlock in Beirut as Tribunal row drags on

BEIRUT: Both Hizbullah and the Future Movement remained committed to their stances regarding to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) as the Cabinet refrained from tackling the issue of false witnesses and the funding of the UN-backed tribunal on Monday.

Hizbullah officials linked the credibility of investigations into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination to probing false witnesses as well as spying networks for Israel, while ruling out any other possibility as an attempt to exploit the tribunal for political purposes.

Meanwhile, ministerial sources close to Prime Minister Saad Hariri have denied that Syria asked Hariri to declare Hizbullah innocent in anticipation of the STL’s indictment.

On Monday, Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on its front page that Damascus had called on Hariri to say: “I, Saad Hariri, consider that the release of an indictment accusing Hizbullah, directly or indirectly, of involvement in the murder  means the STL is politicized, and I will reject such a decision.”

Ministerial sources said the report aimed to raise doubt over Hariri’s support for the STL by hinting that the premier could make compromises over the UN-backed court, a step that “is not possible at all.”

Following a meeting with Hariri at the Grand Serail on Monday, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt raised more ambiguity regarding his position on the STL, when he said the Lebanese should discuss an approach to confront tensions over the STL through dialogue and calm discourse.

On Sunday Jumblatt had said he wished the STL had never been created.

“In conclusion the STL is present but we have to be aware,” Jumblatt said Monday.

Asked about his comments from the previous day, Jumblatt said his statement was for historic references but “today we are talking about the future.”

“The past is past and we are discussing the future, to confront any political or security repercussions with all parties,” he added.

Jumblatt said the Finance and Budget Parliamentary Committee did not convene Monday to discuss the state’s budget because of debate over the article concerning the funding of the STL.

Similarly, the government refrained from addressing the issue of false witnesses on Monday, because of the absence, for health reasons, of Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar, who was responsible for submitting a study on the legal framework surrounding the issue.

Future Movement MP Khaled Daher said the “issue of false witnesses should be discussed within the national unity Cabinet and after the release of the indictment.”

Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah said “Uncovering the truth comes only by putting false witnesses and those behind them on trial as well as adopting evidence and information accusing the Israeli enemy.”

He added that the issue of false witnesses, in addition to spying networks for Israel particularly in the telecommunications sector and evidence presented by Hizbullah “lead to only one target and that is the true killer, whereas anything else is misleading and an attempt to exploit the murder.”

Echoing Fadlallah, Hizbullah MP Nawwaf Moussawi said “any probe that fails to address the issue of false witnesses by disregarding the possibility of Israel’s involvement is politicized and dishonest.”

Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Nawar al-Sahili said “accusing the resistance of assassinating former Premier Hariri is forbidden because it is a false political accusation” and called on “March 14 parties to give up on a decision to instigate strife and look for the truth somewhere else.”

But Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat stressed that Hariri would not succumb to threats and relinquish support to the STL.

“Hizbullah should know that the Future Movement and Saad Hariri will not make any political compromises and particularly with regard to the STL,” Fatfat said.

Fatfat added that the STL was not entitled to accuse any political regime, party or state in the murder but rather individuals.

“Thus there is no accusations that will be filed against Hizbullah [as a party],” Fatfat said.

Fatfat stressed that the campaign against the STL and its impending indictment aimed to overthrow the Lebanese state including the Cabinet headed by Hariri.

Fatfat added that opposition parties should approve the article of the budget concerning the funding of the STL in line with the Cabinet’s policy statement which all parties agreed to.

“If the other party opposes funding the STL then surely they seek to bring down the Cabinet,” Fatfat added while stressing the possibility of finding funding alternatives in such a case.

Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel said its abolition would mean the fall of justice and thus the fall of state institutions.

“The fall of the STL in Lebanon means to return to the law of the jungle,” Gemayel said.

 

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