11/16/2010, 00.00
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Despite attacks, Patriarch Sfeir renews his support for international tribunal

Tensions are rising in Lebanon over UN-backed special tribunal after rumours suggest some Hizbollah figures could be indicted in Hariri bombing. Hizbollah leader warns his movement will cut off the hands of anyone who tries to get at its members.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Tensions are still rising over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), an international court set up under the auspices of the United Nations to investigate and try the people accused of masterminding and carrying out a terrorist attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other people on 14 February 2005.

On his way to the Vatican, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir defended the STL, saying that “justice shall be done”. His words follow suite those of Lebanon’s current Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son, who renewed his support for the international court. By contrast, Hizbollah’s top leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, continued using threatening language. For him, “The hand that attempts to reach (our members) will be cut off”.

Such remarks come after rumours spread that the STL would soon lay charges, this month or next at the latest, against one or more Hizbollah members, purportedly involved in the Hariri attack.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported in fact that investigators were “likely to indict between two and six members of the Shi'ite Muslim militia before the end of the year,” including Mustafa Badreddine, brother-in-law of Imad Mugniyeh, head of Hizbollah’s security force, who was wanted in the US for masterminding a string of terror attacks before he was mysteriously assassinated in Damascus in 2008.

In his statement, Card Sfeir simply reiterated his support for the STL, a position that has led to attacks in the media against him. Aware of the situation, the patriarch said that he expects more of the same, but that he would not back down. Related to this, the prelate flatly dismissed rumours that his visit to Vatican was in connection to his possible retirement.

The latest statements by the Hizbollah leader, who can count on an armed militias that is stronger than the Lebanese army, are part of an ongoing campaign he launched against his party’s critics and his tendency to treat STL supporters as traitors. In fact, for Hassan Nasrallah, the international tribunal is a tool in the hands of the United States and Israel.

In Israel, Israel Defence Forces chief Gabi Ashkenazi on Monday said that the indictment of Hizbollah officials could lead to a coup and see Lebanon taken over by the militant group. (PD)

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