BEIRUT, (AFP) – The US ambassador to Lebanon insisted on Friday that any trial of suspects in the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri should not be affected by rivalries between his regional supporters and opponents.
“The special tribunal is an independent judicial entity, established in response to a terrible time in Lebanon’s history by an agreement between the Lebanese government and the United Nations,” ambassador Maura Connelly said.
“Its work is legitimate and necessary, and cannot be stopped by any bilateral or regional agreement,” her statement added.
“The… indictments, when they are released, will mark a new stage in a transparent, independent judicial process — a process that has the backing of the United Nations.”
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is reportedly set to charge high-ranking operatives of Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful military force, in connection with the 2005 bombing which killed Sunni ex-premier Hariri and 22 others.
Regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Syria, both influential in Lebanon through their support for its two rival political blocs, launched a series of diplomatic efforts months ago aimed at containing rising tensions over the STL.
Talks between the two countries, the details of which have not been made public, are aimed at ensuring that Beirut’s frail national unity government does not collapse.
Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel, accuses the court of being a US-Israeli ploy and has warned any charges might trigger renewed violence in the troubled Middle Eastern country.
But Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier, has vowed to see the investigation through.
Western countries have sought to boost support for the troubled STL over the past month, with the United States donating 10 million dollars, and Britain and France making additional contributions.