Ban expects new Lebanese Government to cooperate in Hariri murder trial

Ban expects new Lebanese Government to cooperate in Hariri murder trial

Headquarters of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expects the newly designated Lebanese Government to abide by its obligation to cooperate with the United Nations-backed tribunal set up to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, his spokesman said today.

Lebanon’s Government of national unity, led by Mr. Hariri’s son Saad, collapsed two weeks ago after 11 Hizbollah and allied ministers resigned, reportedly over the Government’s refusal to cease cooperation with the tribunal, which the media says was about to indict Hizbollah members in the murders of Mr. Hariri and 22 others.

After party consultations, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman today asked Najib Mikati, who has Hizbollah support according to media reports, to form the next Government.

Mr. Ban “expects any Government that is formed in Lebanon to abide by the international obligations that Lebanon has undertaken,” spokesman Martin Nesirky told a news briefing. “The Secretary-General strongly supports the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is an independent judicial body. The work of the Special Tribunal should be unaffected by political developments.”

The tribunal was set up following a probe by the International Independent Investigation Commission after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the massive car bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and the others was seriously flawed, and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. Last week the court received its first indictment, but the contents remain confidential at this stage.

“The Secretary-General calls on all the parties to maintain calm and avoid any act of violence, and he welcomes the statement issued by caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri urging calm,” Mr. Nesirky said. “The immediate concern of all Lebanese leaders should be the maintenance of domestic stability and the avoidance of incidents that could easily escalate.”