MOSCOW, (Reuters) – Divisions inside Lebanon could worsen if an international tribunal on the murder of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri is set up too hastily, Russia’s top Middle East diplomat said on Friday.
Rival political forces in Lebanon have been unable to agree on the terms for the tribunal, which lies at the heart of the country’s worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
A Western diplomat has said it is getting more likely that the United Nations Security Council will invoke extraordinary powers to form the tribunal, if necessary without the agreement of all sides in Lebanon.
Russia holds a veto in the Security Council.
“We take a cautious view of this idea since the question is very acute,” said Alexander Saltanov, a deputy foreign minister and the Kremlin’s special representative for the Middle East. “Careless steps now can only lead to a worsening of the tension and could lead to a serious and maybe even dangerous ethnic split,” he told a news conference.
Saltanov said the prospect of Lebanese forces reaching a deal on the tribunal should “not be written off”.
The tribunal is intended to investigate Hariri’s 2005 killing. He died after accusing neighbouring Syria of meddling in Lebanese politics.
Leaders of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon’s parliament have alleged that Damascus was behind the killing. Syria denies any involvement.