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Hezbollah Leader Calls for Boycott of International Tribunal

  • Heather Murdock

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah criticized the U.N.'s Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Thursday after his organization was accused of staging an attack on court investigators in Beirut on Wednesday. Leaders of the Western-backed Lebanese ruling party say Hezbollah orchestrated the attack, in an effort to derail the international tribunal that is investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, called on the Lebanese people to boycott the U.N. tribunal in a television broadcast.

He accused the court of gathering information on Hezbollah that is unrelated to the death of the former prime minister and sharing it with Israel.

The international tribunal was established by the United Nations after Mr. Hariri was killed in a truck bomb attack along with 22 other people in 2005. Since then, the court has become the subject of a heated debate that experts warn could destabilize the Lebanon's fragile unity government.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain leader, heads Lebanon's Western-backed ruling party, which supports the tribunal.

Many expect the tribunal will indict members of Hezbollah, the Syrian-backed Shi'ite militia that shares power in Lebanon's fragile unity government.

Nasrallah's speech came after Hezbollah was accused of masterminding an attack on tribunal investigators on Wednesday. Police say that about 30 women stormed a gynecology clinic in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut. The U.N. tribunal says several items belonging to the investigators were stolen and that staff members needed medical attention.

Hezbollah denies any involvement in the attack, but Nasrallah blames the tribunal for angering local women by demanding private information from a women's clinic.

Fares Souaid, the secretary general of the March 14 governing alliance, says Hezbollah uses its popularity among Shi'ites in their strongholds to stage attacks against the court. "Hezbollah is organizing this kind of confrontation between the civil society, the Shia civil society, and the investigators coming from the international investigation committee. And it's not the first time," Souaid said.

Souaid says that Lebanese cooperation with the international community is essential to counterbalance Iran's growing influence in the region.