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French Version

Progress halts in anticipation of UN's Hariri probe report

As the pace of the country has dangerously slowed in anticipation of the UN report into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, some diplomatic circles indicated the international community's concern with this stagnation, suggesting it would like to see a more efficient and active government performing without delay.

Commenting on the increasingly evident connection between the absence of serious political activity in the country and the awaited report of UN probe team chief Detlev Mehlis, Western diplomatic sources said linking the two issues was not only totally inappropriate, but extremely unwise.

The stagnation could have negative repercussions for the country, the sources said. As time passes, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's Cabinet is losing the momentum generated by the parliamentary polls.

Moreover, those who have high hopes of seeing Mehlis' report provide revelations may be disappointed. The sources expect the report - due to be delivered by the end of August - to be rather descriptive, while a more direct and revealing document is to be issued by the head of the UN Committee around the beginning of October, at the end of the extended deadline for Mehlis' mission.

Decisive disclosures are more likely to come with the second report, the sources said, noting that it would be unreasonable on the government's part to further delay its activities until then.

Over the past couple of months, the international community has expressed its readiness to help Lebanon, but has pointed to two key conditions for doing so: that Lebanon commits itself to the implementation of UN Resolution 1559 - even if it has to be at the country's own pace - and achieves exhaustive internal reform on all levels.

The longer it takes to undertake these reforms, the more opportunities to get foreign assistance will be lost, the sources said.

The fact that these reforms are linked to the awaited administrative appointments, particularly the security and judiciary ones, which have been put on hold due to political polarization and for reasons having to do with Mehlis' report, has created a vicious circle.

A belief has been growing among politicians recently that the report would unveil key truths which would affect a political faction currently imposing conditions on the appointments, possibly leading to the exclusion of this faction from political life.

This is reportedly one of the reasons why the Siniora's Cabinet prefers to wait for the "truth" about Hariri's assassination before seriously engaging in the designation process.

Meanwhile, the delay in security appointments has created a dangerous vacuum in the security structure. This has intensified feelings of anxiety and fear among politicians who are convinced security cannot be guaranteed while these appointments are still pending.

This feeling of fear has led those politicians to reduce their activities, leading to more sluggishness in the country. Senior leaders have been avoiding leaving their headquarters, amid increasing reports that some of them are in serious danger.

Beirut 19-08-2005
Zeina Abu Rizk
The Daily Star

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