US happy as Lebanon Hariri murder indictment filed

Hezbollah's al-Manar television said US was behind the release of the draft indictment in order to sabotage efforts to solve Lebanon's crisis.

US happy as Lebanon Hariri murder indictment filed

The prosecutor of the U.N.-backed tribunal issued a draft indictment on Monday over the 2005 killing of statesman Rafik al-Hariri, a long-anticipated move that has touched off a Lebanese political crisis.

Last week, the Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government of Saad al-Hariri, the slain man's son, and the group said it would not back Hariri for another term.

The escalation in political tension has alarmed regional leaders, who met in Syria on Monday in efforts to try to overcome the deadlock.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he welcomed the filing of an indictment over the killing and that the U.N.-backed tribunal for Lebanon.

"This action represents an important step toward ending the era of impunity for murder in Lebanon, and achieving justice for the Lebanese people," Obama said in a written statement.

"No details"

The contents of the draft indictment, which will now be reviewed by pretrial judge Daniel Fransen, were not revealed. Details of the charge sheet may not emerge for another six to 10 weeks, when Fransen is expected to decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

But Lebanese officials and Western diplomats have said they expected the court to accuse some members of Hezbollah of involvement in the assassination. Hezbollah denies any such role and has described the tribunal as an "Israeli tool."

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said last year he will not allow the arrest of any of the group's members. The group had asked Hariri to renounce the tribunal, withdraw the Lebanese judges and freeze Lebanon's funding of it.

Hariri's rejection of the demands triggered the resignation of 11 ministers from Hezbollah and its allies last week.

"The prosecutor of the tribunal has submitted an indictment and supporting materials to the pre-trial judge," the U.N.-backed tribunal said in a statement.

"American control"

Hezbollah officials declined to comment. But Hezbollah's al-Manar television said in its news bulletin the United States was behind the release of the draft indictment in order to sabotage efforts to solve Lebanon's crisis.

It accused Washington of "pushing the indictment ahead to light the fuse to blow up the bridges for a solution," adding that the "Americans control the indictments in form and content."

Nasrallah said on Sunday that Hezbollah would fight efforts to tarnish its image. "We will not allow our reputation and our honour to be touched."

He said leaders from several countries had intervened to demand Hariri be picked again to form the next government, but defended the decision to bring down the last one.

"It was a must to topple the incapable government because bringing it down might -- and I say, might -- open the door for Lebanon to form a loyal government that could carry the burden ... and be responsible," he said.

"Regional efforts"

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, speaking before talks on Monday with leaders of Syria and Qatar in Damascus, said instability in Lebanon was a concern for the whole Middle East.

"Our region could not cope with Lebanon entering a new atmosphere of uncertainty," Erdogan said.

The three leaders meeting in Damascus "affirmed their care to find a solution to this crisis based on the ... Syrian-Saudi efforts to achieve harmony between the Lebanese," an official Syrian statement said after Monday's talks, referring to earlier failed efforts by Saudi Arabia and Syria to forge a deal.

Iran's foreign minister visited Turkey on Monday after the Turkish prime minister discussed the issue on the weekend with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


Related news reports:

Turkey, Qatar, Syria back Syria-Saudi mediation on Lebanon

Last Mod: 18 Ocak 2011, 17:16
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