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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/lebanon/7916925/Lebanon-facing-crisis-if-Hizbollah-charged-over-political-murder.html

Lebanon facing crisis if Hizbollah charged over political murder. Lebanon could be pitched into crisis if a tribunal set up to investigate the murder of the former prime minister, Rafik Harari, recommends charging Hizbollah members.

by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Published: 8:29PM BST 29 Jul 2010

Rafik Hariri

Rafik Harari, pictured,  Photo: AP
A bomb blast in Beirut targeting Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a massive blast on Beirut’s Corniche in 2005. Photo: AP

Indications that the international tribunal investigating the massive car bomb that killed the veteran Lebanese leader would indict Hizbollah operatives has drawn a furious reaction from the leadership of the Iranian-backed terrorist group.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, raised the threat of withdrawal from the national unity government as it fought the tribunal, which he condemned as an “Israeli project”.

Hizbollah has a large following among the country’s Shia Muslims and any moves to resist the government could create significant instability in Lebanon.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia held talks in the Syrian capital on Thursday with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. The two men will travel to Beirut for a summit with President Michel Suleiman and Mr Hariri’s son Saad, Lebanon’s prime minister.

Leaks from the investigation have said mobile phone records prove that prominent Hizbollah activists tracked Mr Hariri before detonating the massive bomb that killed the billionaire businessman on the city’s Corniche in 2005.

The Saudi king was a close ally of Mr Hariri and is believed to want Syria to use its close ties to Hizbollah, to persuade the group to pull back from the brink. Mr Hariri’s followers said outside invention was necessary to avoid deadlock.

“The visit of King Abdullah and President Assad, who are coming together on Friday, will be an answer for all the questions about stability in Lebanon,” Nohad al-Machnouk, an MP said.

Syria was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in the aftermath of the attack, which its agents were believed to have ordered and assisted, and the visit will be Mr Assad’s first since relations were restored.

Fatima Issawi, spokeswoman for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, said its UN mandate required the government of Lebanon to arrest and turn over any indicted suspects for trial. There is no confirmation that investigators had plans to charge the militant group. She said: “It would be quite unhelpful to add to the existing speculations. The Office of the Prosecutor will issue an indictment when it is ready.”

But Mr Nasarallah has said “not even a half” of a Hizbollah member was involved.

A breakdown of the Lebanese government would compound fears over the country’s deteriorating security, which has been buffeted by warnings that Israel may yet be forced into another offensive against Hizbollah missile and rocket positions.

Lebanon had to reinforce army deployments on its southern border region this month after local Hizbollah loyalists attacked UN peace keepers in a series of clashes.

Hizbollah is believed to have rearmed since the 2006 war with Israel despite international assurances that it would not be able to restock missiles and rockets within range of its southern neighbour.

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