Former PM Hariri visits Lebanon on anniversary of father's death

He will speak at a ceremony dedicated to his father in central Beirut, state news agency NNA and pro-Hariri newspaper al-Mustaqbal said.

Former PM Hariri visits Lebanon on anniversary of father's death

World Bulletin / News Desk

Lebanon's former prime minister Saad al-Hariri arrived back in the country overnight on a rare visit and will make a speech on Saturday to mark the 10th anniversary of his father Rafik's assassination, Lebanese media said.

He will speak at a ceremony dedicated to his father in central Beirut, state news agency NNA and pro-Haririnewspaper al-Mustaqbal said. Special forces officers patrolled streets near the venue in the capital on Saturday and blocked off traffic.

Rafik al-Hariri was killed in a 2005 Beirut waterfront bombing that brought the country back to the brink of civil war.

On Saturday scores of Lebanese queued to lay white and red flowers at his grave next to the central Mohammad al-Amin mosque in the capital, some breaking down in tears and others posing for photographs beside large posters of the late statesman.

Five members of Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah have been indicted over his killing by an international tribunal in The Hague, which is being closely watched in Lebanon. The trial in absentia began in January 2014 and Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the killing.

The assassination pushed Hariri's son Saad into political life. He remains Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician, despite leaving the country in 2011 after his government was toppled by a coalition including Hezbollah. He splits his time between Saudi Arabia and France, who support him.

Despite the animosity between the two groups, Hariri's Future Movement is now working with Hezbollah to contain sectarian tensions back in Lebanon that have been exacerbated by the war in Syria.

The four-year-old Syrian conflict involves overwhelmingly Sunni insurgents who oppose President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Shi'ite-derived Alawite minority, and allied Shi'ite groups including Hezbollah.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commemorated Hariri in a statement late on Friday, saying the man known as "MrLebanon" had given his country hope during its "darkest days."

"He stood for peaceful change and the resolution of differences through conversations - not carnage," Kerry said.

"Ten years ago today, he was assassinated because some feared he might succeed."

The bomb that killed him, packed in a Mitsubishi van filled with the equivalent of 2.5 tons of high explosive, was detonated by a still unidentified suicide bomber. It killed 21 others and wounded more than 200 as it ripped through a busy street.

Saad, who blames Hezbollah ally Assad for the murder, visited Lebanon for the first time in three years in August.

Politicians and public figures expressed hope that his return would help stabilise Lebanon, which is plagued by violence and caught in political deadlock, unable to elect a new president after several attempts. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Şubat 2015, 14:11

Muhammed Öylek