News / Middle East

UN Chief Arrives in Lebanon to Talk on Hezbollah and Syria

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (r) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut,  Jan. 13, 2012.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman (r) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Jan. 13, 2012.

United Nations chief arrived in Lebanon on Friday for talks on a U.N.-backed tribunal probing the death of the country's former leader and the ongoing bloodshed in neighboring Syria.

The U.N. secretary-general is also expected to discuss attacks against U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon and the weapons stockpile of militant group Hezbollah. Mr. Ban is scheduled to meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and leaders of parliament.

In a recent interview with Arabic daily an-Nahar, Mr. Ban repeated his calls for Hezbollah to disarm. Hezbollah is the only Lebanese faction that has refused to lay down their arms following the 1975-1990 civil war.

Ahead of Mr. Ban's arrival, a Hezbollah official made clear that the U.N. chief is not welcome in Beirut.

At the top of Mr. Ban's agenda will be discussion on the Hague-based tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Four members of Hezbollah have been accused in the bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others in the Lebanese capital.

Hezbollah, Lebanon's strongest political faction, has denied involvement in the slaying and has refused to hand over the four suspects to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Mr. Ban said he would soon decide whether to renew the tribunal's mandate that is due to expire at the end of February.

The U.N. chief made a repeated appeal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop the violent crackdown on protesters during the an-Nahar interview. He also urged the international community to come together to adopt a united stand on the uprising in Syria.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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