PARIS, (AFP) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday that no one wants civil strife in Lebanon, amid tensions ahead of indictments over the 2005 assassination of former Lebanon prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
“No one wants there to be clashes, fitna (strife within the Muslim community), between Lebanese,” Assad said after lunchtime talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy centred on Lebanon, for decades dominated by Syria.
Pro-Saudi billionaire Hariri was assassinated in a massive car bombing in Beirut that also killed another 22 people, and a UN-backed tribunal tasked with finding who was responsible has said it will issue indictments “very soon.”
The killing led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops who had been in neighbouring Lebanon since the end of the devastating 1975-1990 civil war.
Several foreign media have reported that the tribunal will indict members of the powerful Shiite group, Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, in connection with the murder.
Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel, has warned any such accusation would have grave repercussions in Lebanon.
Assad travelled to Saudi Arabia in October to discuss Middle East tensions heightened by the UN probe into the Hariri killing.
Asked about an eventual Syrian-Saudi initiative in Lebanon, Assad said that “the solution can only be Lebanese, it can be neither Syrian, nor Saudi, nor French.
“We (Syrians) don’t want to intervene, we don’t want to interfere in an internal Lebanese situation,” Assad said.