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UN Security Council to Get Lebanon Tribunal Measure This Week


The United States and its European allies are pushing the U.N. Security Council to move quickly to create a tribunal for suspects in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. From U.N. headquarters, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports a resolution could be introduced as early as this week.

The issue of establishing an international tribunal in the Hariri assassination case was put on the fast track. That move came a day after Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking for help, saying Lebanese efforts to create the court had reached a dead end.

Mr. Ban immediately forwarded the letter to the Security Council, and the Council president for May, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, said he intends to respond with a draft resolution within days.

"The Lebanese parliament, the majority supports it. The democratic elected government of Lebanon, the prime minister, has sent a letter saying the minority is blocking a moving forward, and he has asked for the U.N. to establish a tribunal to assist the Lebanese, and to do it in a way that is binding. Therefore, it is important from our point of view to assist the Lebanese in establishment of that tribunal, and we expect to introduce a resolution perhaps before the end of the week," he said.

Mr. Hariri and 22 others were killed by a massive bomb in Beirut in February, 2005. A preliminary U.N. investigation implicated Syrian intelligence officials in the assassination plot. Syria has strongly denied the allegation.

The issue of setting up a tribunal for suspects in the case has sparked a political crisis in Lebanon. The country's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, is reported to have sent his own letter to Secretary-General Ban warning of what he called "renewed instability" if the court is established.

But America's U.N. Ambassador Khalilzad argued that stability in Lebanon requires that Rafik Hariri's killers be brought to justice. He told reporters, "We cannot let the Lebanese down."

"It is very important that there be justice done with regard to attacks that have taken place, and important in terms of future, longer-term stability of Lebanon, that such actions be deterred through the judicial process, the tribunal involves, so we believe that for the stability of Lebanon, for the success of democracy in Lebanon, it is very important this tribunal be established," he said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch is in Beirut for talks about the tribunal with Lebanese leaders. He was meeting with Prime Minister Siniora, as well as with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, who has refused to convene the legislature to approve the tribunal, arguing that the Siniora government is illegitimate.

Meanwhile, the U.N. investigation into the Hariri assassination and other political killings in Lebanon is said to be nearly complete. The lead investigator, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, recently said he was ready to begin presenting the case for prosecution.