U.N. hopes to kick-start Hariri tribunal

April 6, 2007 at 10:30 AM
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UNITED NATIONS, April 6 (UPI) -- The top U.N. lawyer plans to meet with a Lebanese lawmaker who is blocking a tribunal on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri, who shut down Parliament to avoid discussing the tribunal, asked if U.N. Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel would meet with him in Saudi Arabia, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Thursday. Michel signed an agreement with Lebanon on behalf of the United Nations in February setting up the tribunal -- but before it can convene, it must first by ratified by the Lebanese Parliament.

"I hope through these meetings the Lebanese government and people will be able to take the necessary constitutional procedures" to create the proposed tribunal, Ban said, adding he received a letter from 70 Lebanese lawmakers Wednesday asking him to move the tribunal forward.

The United Nations sought to establish the tribunal to try those involved in Hariri's death, but that move has been blocked by pro-Hezbollah and pro-Syrian forces within the Lebanese government.

Hariri was killed along with 22 others in a massive car bombing in Beirut in February 2005.

"There is no threat to Lebanon with this tribunal," said acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, speaking to reporters after a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday. "On the contrary, it was established to ensure that Lebanon would be able to pursue its own sovereignty and independence without outside interference or intimidation."

A senior U.N. official told reporters Wednesday it would be up to the tribunal to determine whether other political killings in Lebanon since October 2004 were connected with Hariri's assassination and could therefore be dealt with by the tribunal.

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