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French Version

Ruling coalition signals readiness to create Hariri court under Chapter 7

The parliamentary majority sent new signals Thursday that it would push to establish an international court to try suspects in the slaying of former Premier Rafik Hariri and other crimes under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, although pro-government leaders said they would first wait to see what develops from talks that UN envoy Nicolas Michel is conducting with opposition figures.

Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, speaking to Voice of Lebanon radio Thursday, said that by paralyzing Parliament the opposition aims to prevent the tribunal from being established through Lebanese constitutional institutions.

"In light of the results of Michel's mission we will take the suitable decision concerning additional petitions or further follow up by the government on the issue [of the tribunal] with the Security Council," Hamadeh said, adding that it was a matter of "hours or days" before the result of Michel's mission became clear.

Chapter 7 status would mean that the approval of Lebanon's Parliament would not be required for the tribunal to move forward.

Opposition figures have voiced support for the tribunal in principle but say that revisions are needed to the current draft proposal for the court.

In a meeting on Wednesday with Michel, resigned Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Fneish of Hizbullah said that establishing the tribunal under Chapter 7 "would plunge the country into strife."

Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt, a senior member of the majority coalition, met with Michel, UN undersecretary general for legal affairs, over lunch on Thursday. Jumblatt called on Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to "hurry up in sending a letter to the UN in order to establish the tribunal under article 41 of Chapter 7, to counter the exaggerations of the opposition."

Article 41 does not require the use of military force in implementing resolutions.

Michel, who also met Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea in Bzummar on Thursday, said the UN would not resort to military means to establish the tribunal.

Speaking after his meeting with Michel, Geagea said that the fact that a majority of MPs and ministers accept the tribunal in its current form means that it has been ratified through constitutional institutions.

He said Michel's mission was to convince all sides of the need to proceed with the tribunal through constitutional means.

Responding to the opposition's contention that establishing the tribunal under Chapter 7 would threaten Lebanese sovereignty and result in internal strife, Geagea said: "I would have liked that those who speak of Lebanon's sovereignty today, those whose power over the past 15 years emanated from a Syrian intelligence officer in Anjar, could have remembered that sovereignty back then."

Opposition leaders said that their concerns that the tribunal would be used for political ends were exacerbated by comments made by Geagea on Wednesday, in which he said the tribunal would "uncover the identities of those who killed our martyrs since 1975."

Responding to Geagea's comments, a Hizbullah spokesperson told The Daily Star Thursday that the Lebanese Forces leader still has a civil war mentality and is categorizing martyrs as "ours" and "theirs."

"I wonder if those martyrs he spoke of include those killed by him and Jumblatt?" he asked.

After meeting with Michel Thursday, former President Amin Gemayel said the tribunal had to be established under "any formula."

Asked what would happen should Michel's mission fail, Gemayel said the course to take then would be toward Chapter 7: "We are not eager for that, but due to the obstacles, we have to agree to a specific solution.

"Mr. Michel is trying to achieve agreement among the Lebanese," said Gemayel. "God willing he will be successful, but if not a report will be made to the UN Secretary General and the Security Council will take the necessary steps."

Michel stressed the need to put an end to political assassinations in Lebanon, to investigate every detail of a long string of such killings and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"There is a need to establish a basis for dialogue in order to restore confidence; this is part of my discussion with all the political leaderships in the country," Michel said. "Every time I speak to both sides I hear them say they want the tribunal ... we need to turn this desire in to a tangible reality."

Asked if the tribunal was in fact heading toward Chapter 7 status, Michel said the main aim of his mission was to find a way for the Lebanese to agree within a constitutional framework, adding that he would not abandon his mission and he is aware of the difficulties.

Change and Reform Bloc leader MP Michel Aoun said the aim of the majority during the national dialogue was not ratification of the tribunal but rather the removal of Hizbullah and Amal from the Cabinet. In an interview with an Arab weekly magazine, he said a Chapter 7 court will not solve problems in Lebanon but will add one more problem between Lebanon and the UN.

Beirut 20-04-2007
The Daily Star

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