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Lebanon's Jumblatt Seeks Support for International Tribunal


A senior Lebanese politician is in the United States seeking support for an international tribunal to try the perpetrators of the 2004 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Walid Jumblatt said Tuesday the court is essential to Lebanon's stability. VOA's Margaret Besheer has more from Washington.

In February 2004, a massive car bomb attack killed Mr. Hariri and 22 other people. His murder was followed by 14 other assassinations and attempted killings of prominent anti-Syrian journalists and politicians. An ongoing U.N. investigation has implicated officials in Syria and their allies in Lebanon in the attacks.

Anti-Syrian legislators in Lebanon have been calling for an international court to bring those responsible to justice. But they have met resistance from Syria's allies in Lebanon, including President Emile Lahoud and Hezbollah loyalists.

Walid Jumblatt, an elder statesman and leader of the Druze community in Lebanon, is in the United States seeking support for the international tribunal from the Bush administration and members of the U.N. Security Council.

President Lahoud said Monday he has several objections to the proposed tribunal. Jumblatt accused the president of seeking to stall the formation of the court in order to escape prosecution.

"He is not willing to have justice be done because somewhere it seems he is involved," he said.

The assassination of Rafik Hariri and three other prominent anti-Syrian journalists and politicians further increased tensions between Lebanon's pro- and anti-Syrian factions. Jumblatt says an international tribunal is essential to returning real stability to Lebanon and ending Syria's interference.

"It could change the behavior of the Syrian regime," he said. "Without the tribunal we will not have any weapon of mass deterrence against the Syrian regime. Without the tribunal Bashar [Assad] and company will not leave us in peace."

In his remarks at the Wilson Institute Jumblatt also called for tighter control of the Syrian-Lebanese border to prevent arms and ammunition reaching Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. He said there would not be peace in Lebanon until a solution is found to effectively monitor the border.

"As long as the borders between Lebanon and Syria are not being monitored effectively, the flow of weapons and ammunition will still continue and this will provoke later on, maybe, instability," he said.

Jumblatt said the Lebanese want a free and independent country, and they are not afraid to pay whatever price is necessary to achieve it.