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PM to convince allies rejection of STL costly

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NEW YORK: Prime Minister Najib Mikati vowed Sunday to convince his allies in the government of the negative repercussions that could result if funding for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is blocked, adding that one of the purposes of his visit to New York was to clarify his Cabinet’s stance on the thorny issue.

Mikati also promised to explain to the officials he will meet during his visit what he dubbed the “peculiar” nature of Lebanese domestic politics, and said that Lebanon’s stability was his top priority.

“I always stress that Lebanon should not implement international resolutions selectively,” said Mikati during a briefing for reporters.

“We cannot submit to the United Nations all the maps related to our Exclusive Economic Zone and ask them to help us protect it, yet at the same time scrap all resolutions and agreements related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” he said.

He said the issue of paying Lebanon’s share of funds to the Netherlands-based STL has yet to be discussed by his Cabinet, adding that none of the Lebanese factions will stand against the interests of their country.

There are fears that Hezbollah and its allies, which hold a dominant share in the Mikati government, will attempt to block a decision to fund the STL after the court named four members of the party as the primary suspects in the case of the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

But Mikati vowed to convince the groups in the government of the consequences that might result if the government decided to implement international resolutions selectively.

“None of the parties have informed me that [they are] against paying our share of funds,” said Mikati. “I will try to convince everybody of the negative effects that might result from being selective in implementing international resolutions.”

Mikati, who is scheduled to hold separate talks Monday at the office of the head of the U.N. Security Council with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in addition to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, said he planned to meet with the world’s “most influential” officials in a bid to garner significant support for Lebanon.

He also described Lebanon’s presidency of the U.N. Security Council during the month of September as a “historic opportunity” that would allow Lebanon to become acquainted with the stances of the international community on issues in the Middle East.

Mikati will go to the monthly briefing on the Middle East at the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, during which he will deliver a short speech. He is also set to meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Mikati discussed Sunday Lebanese-Libyan ties as well as the details of a conference in Beirut on investment in Libya to be held on Nov. 24 with the chairman of the Executive Board of the Libyan National Transitional Council.

Mikati also met with a delegation from the American Task Force for Lebanon, a non-profit, non-sectarian organization seeking to promote peace and stability in Lebanon and encourage the U.S. to invest more to restore the basic infrastructure of Lebanese economic, political and educational institutions.The prime minister said the primary goal of his visit to New York was to protect Lebanon and bolster its role on the international scene. He added that Lebanon had no other choice but to build positive ties with all countries except Israel.

“Based on this formula we [will] address internal and external challenges,” said Mikati.

Mikati also said that the “calmness and dialogue” that governs the way he treats domestic issues also applies to foreign relations.

He highlighted that he will take advantage of his stay in New York to explain his government’s policy on a wide array of issues following “campaigns against it [the government].”

During his meetings, Mikati said he will explain to officials the “peculiar” political situation in Lebanon and how it is directly affected by any external turmoil.

The prime minister added that one of his top priorities was to elude any domestic tension through calmly tackling all challenges through constructive dialogue.

“There is no winner or loser in Lebanon,” Mikati said. “But rather we should rather work to serve Lebanon’s higher interests.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 26, 2011, on page 1.

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