TEHRAN, (AFP) — Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday dismissed as “null and void” imminent rulings by the UN court probing the 2005 murder of ex-Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, state television reported.
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is reportedly set to indict high-ranking operatives of the Shiite movement Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful military force, which is backed by Tehran and Damascus.
“This tribunal is receiving orders from elsewhere and whatever ruling it hands down is null and void,” Khamenei told visiting Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in a meeting, state television reported.
“We hope that the influential sides which have a say in Lebanon act based on logic and wisdom, so that this issue will not turn into a problem,” said Khamenei, Iran’s all-powerful commander-in-chief.
The STL said on December 9 that it will “very, very soon” file indictments over the February 14, 2005 killing of Hariri and 22 others in a Beirut bomb blast.
Iran is the ideological and financial backer of Shiite Hezbollah, which fought a devastating war against Israel in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Iran’s English-language Press TV carried a similar report.
“Khamenei says any ruling by the US-sponsored Special Tribunal for Lebanon is null and void,” it said on its website.
Hezbollah has said it expects to be falsely accused of involvement in the former premier’s killing and warned against any attempt to arrest its members, raising fears of instability in the small, multi-religious Mediterranean country.
Hassan Nasrallah, who heads the militant movement, has urged Lebanon’s deeply divided unity government to step aside and allow him to deal with the STL, which he brands a US-Israeli plot.
The Beirut government is meanwhile in paralysis, business deals are on hold and rumours abound as Lebanon anxiously awaits indictments by the tribunal.
The awaited indictments have split the unity government, with Hezbollah and its supporters pitted against the Western-backed camp of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated Sunni leader.
Iranian state television quoted the Qatari Emir as telling Khamenei that attempts were being made to trigger a sedition in Lebanon.
“Some seek to create a new sedition in Lebanon, but we are trying to avoid this sedition with the help of regional countries,” the emir said. The report did not elaborate.
Last month during a visit to Tehran by Prime Minister Hariri, Khamenei told him to strengthen his ties with Hezbollah.
Ahead of Hariri’s visit, the media said the prime minister was coming to Iran hoping that Tehran would help to reconcile his pro-Western camp and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah and Iran enjoy deep ties which were evident during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in October to Lebanon, where he received a rousing welcome.
The two also share a deep animosity towards Israel, which has not ruled out a military strike against Tehran to stop its controversial nuclear programme.