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French Version

Annan urges international court in Hariri case

"A court of mixed nature, Lebanese and international" should be established, likely outside of Lebanon, to prosecute those charged in the killing of Lebanon's former Premier Rafik Hariri, according to a report presented by UN chief Kofi Annan to UN Security Council members late Tuesday night.

Following two meetings between senior Lebanese officials dispatched to New York last month to discuss the establishment of the court and Nicolas Michel, the UN chief of Legal Affairs, Annan said it was clear a mixed tribunal was needed to ensure justice is reached in the case.

He said the attack on Hariri and other similar bombings "have contributed to creating a climate of insecurity and intimidation, which seriously affects the functioning of the country's political institutions as well as economic and social life."

A UN probe is ongoing, with the new chief investigator Serge Brammertz saying last week he was cautiously optimistic recent promises by Syria to cooperate after months of refusals and delays could lead to progress in the probe. His predecessor had implicated top Syrian and Lebanese officials in the explosion in Beirut that killed Hariri.

Annan said in the report UN consultations with Lebanese authorities highlighted the "urgent need" to find the truth behind the killing, which could contribute to restoring stability and durable peace to the country.

The report was a response to a Security Council resolution adopted last December, which asked the secretary general to help the Lebanese government identify the nature and scope of international assistance needed to try anyone charged in the terrorist attack that killed Hariri.

Annan said "it appears that the establishment of a mixed tribunal would best balance the need for Lebanese and international involvement in the work of the tribunal." He also said the issue of where to locate the tribunal must be carefully considered.

"At this stage, it is clear that there is a belief, based on security concerns, among the Lebanese authorities that the tribunal might not be able to operate effectively in Lebanon," he said.

As for the composition of the tribunal, Annan said: "The Lebanese authorities emphasized that significant international participation would be essential for the tribunal to fulfill its purpose effectively," stressing the importance of ensuring that the judges, prosecutor and court personnel are selected "in a way that ensures the independence, objectivity and impartiality of the judicial process."

Annan said that if "the common understanding" between the UN and Lebanese authorities is acceptable to the Security Council, it should adopt a resolution asking him to initiate negotiations with the Lebanese government aimed at establishing a mixed tribunal.

Annan said he would present recommendations at a later date on expanding the mandate of the investigating commission to cover other attacks in Lebanon since October 1, 2004.

Annan's report was welcomed by Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who hoped the Security Council would adopt the report's recommendations.

The president assured visitors Wednesday "those found guilty will be severely punished."

Beirut 27-03-2006
Majdoline Hatoum
The Daily Star

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