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Many Lebanese Welcome UN Hariri Tribunal


The U.N. Security Council resolution establishing an international court to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was welcomed by supporters of the former prime minister. From the Lebanese capital, VOA's Margaret Besheer reports.

It has been 836 days since the popular former prime minister was assassinated in a massive truck bombing along Beirut's seaside that also killed 22 others.

The assassination, blamed on neighboring Syria, set off a wave of events that led to Damascus withdrawing its troops from Lebanon after a nearly 30-year presence. It also triggered a series of murders of several prominent anti-Syrian journalists and politicians in Lebanon.

Prime Minister Hariri's son and political heir, Saad, welcomed Resolution 1757, which narrowly passed with 10 votes in favor and five abstentions.

In a televised address late Wednesday, Saad Hariri said the world community has given Lebanon an important victory.

Hariri became emotional, invoking his father and saying he was loved by all Lebanese and was a friend to all Arabs. He said he feels his father's presence with him always and certainly at this moment when the international tribunal has been declared.

Separately, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora addressed the Lebanese people urging unity.

He says the Security Council's decision should not be considered a victory for any one party or specific group in Lebanon. Rather, he says, it is a victory for all Lebanese everywhere.

Mr. Siniora had tried to get the Lebanese government to approve the establishment of the tribunal, but pro-Syrian factions stalled the effort, causing a political crisis that has effectively paralyzed the government.

Following their late night television appearances, both men went separately to the grave of Mr. Hariri in central Beirut to pray. Many supporters had gathered there earlier in the day ahead of the U.N. vote to pray, leave flowers and light candles.

Chawkee Farhat was among the visitors.

"Tonight is a special night, it is an important night and it is an important event in the history of our country, and hopefully it is a turning point," said Chawkee Farhat.

Ziad, a law student at Beirut Arab University, says he came to show his support for the international tribunal.

"We are here to say we never forgive anyone who did this assassination - this inhuman assassination - because this person [Hariri] did nothing to anyone," said Ziad. "He did not harm anyone. All he wanted was peace and Lebanon to flourish."

Mr. Hariri's tomb lies in the shadow of a grand mosque he built and in an area of the capital that he rebuilt after Lebanon's bloody 15-year civil war ended in the early 1990s.

Nader Nakib, president of the Youth Association of Hariri's Future Movement, says Hariri's supporters have waited two years for this moment.

"You cannot get him back, definitely, but at least we can give him peace," said Nader Nakib. "He can rest in peace because he would know that the assassins would be tried, for once at least, in the Middle East."

Security was tightened across the Lebanese capital Wednesday evening. Fireworks, the firing of guns and the use of motorbikes were all banned overnight to preserve public safety. But despite the ban, celebratory fireworks could be heard in the city.

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