05/31/2007, 00.00
LEBANON – UNITED NATIONS
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Decision to set up international tribunal greeted with fireworks and bombs

Lebanon’s ruling coalition welcomes Security Council decision as opposition remains silent. Syria, which occupied Lebanon for 30 years, questions the decision it claims “violates Lebanese sovereignty.”

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Reactions were mixed to the decision of the United Nations Security Council to institute an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other people on February 14, 2005 in Beirut, then still under Syrian control. In the capital’s Sunni neighbourhoods there were celebratory fire works; by constrast, a concussion bomb exploded near Mar Mikhael Church in Beirut's Shiyyah district

Leaders from Lebanon’s ruling coalition expressed positive views about the decision; Syria’s response was negative, whilst Lebanon’s opposition parties have still not made a public statement, except for Michel Aoun who condemned the fact that no suspects gave yet to be identified.

Ten Security Council members voted in favour of the resolution setting up the tribunal with veto-wielding members Russia and China as well as South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar abstaining.

Security Council Resolution 1757 will be implemented under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which allows for measures to counter threats against peace.

The resolution also includes a “sunrise clause”" that gives Lebanon's rival factions until June 10 to settle their differences and create their own court to try suspects in the Hariri killing.

It states that “the tribunal shall commence functioning on a date to be determined by the secretary general in consultation with the government of Lebanon, taking into account the progress of the work” of the UN panel which has been probing the Hariri murder for the past two years.

In any case, unless Lebanon’s internal situation gets any worse, the tribunal is not likely to be up and running for perhaps a year after the motion comes into force, diplomats said.

Sources from within the ruling coalition expect the pro-Syrian opposition to try to block the tribunal.

The Syrian government and its president, Bashar al-Assad, concerned that its top security officials might be called to account, have already refused to co-operate with the tribunal.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency quoted that country's ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, as saying that the decision “violates Lebanese sovereignty.”

According to the ruling “March 14” coalition led in parliament by Rafik Hariri’s son, Saad, Syria’s fears are behind the attacks that continue to take place in Lebanon, the attempts to undermine the current government, President Lahoud’s proposal to set up a “national salvation” cabinet, the ongoing attacks by the Fatah al-Islam terrorists, the non convening of parliament and the stumbling blocks expected in the selection process for the Lebanese members of the panel of judges who will sit in the tribunal.

Outside political circles, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani last night expressed his support for the tribunal, calling it a way to end the attacks. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir yesterday had said the same. (PD)

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