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Lebanon president warns UN over Hariri court

Written by: Staff

BEIRUT, May 16 (Reuters) Lebanese President Emile Lahoud warned the United Nations against setting up a tribunal for suspects in the 2005 killing of former premier Rafik al-Hariri.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday, Lahoud said there could be renewed instability in Lebanon if the UN Security Council moved to set up the court as requested by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Siniora wrote to Ban on Monday urging the United Nations to form the tribunal unilaterally because he said efforts to secure full Lebanese approval had hit a dead end.

Lahoud said any move by the Security Council to set up the tribunal unilaterally ''would imply a full bypass of the constitutional mechanisms in Lebanon''.

That ''would not only threaten Lebanon's stability but would as well hamper the court's judicial capacities to hold an impartial trial'', wrote Lahoud, quoting from a letter he sent to Ban in February.

Siniora was ''falsifying facts to drag the Security Council into siding with one Lebanese party against the other'', he added.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to convene parliament to approve the court plans because he, like Lahoud, considers Siniora's government unconstitutional.

Both Berri and Lahoud are allies of Syria. Lebanese leaders who back Siniora's government accuse them of acting on Syrian orders to derail the court. They accuse Damascus of the Hariri killing, which was followed by attacks on other anti-Syrian figures. Syria denies involvement.

The opposition, which also includes pro-Syria Hezbollah, have said they accept the idea of the court but fear it will be used as a political tool and want to discuss its mandate.

The United States, which backs Siniora, said last week it would push for the court's creation.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs David Welch arrived in Beirut yesterday and is expected to discuss the tribunal with Lebanese leaders.


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