UN considers revised UN resolution on Hariri killing

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A revised UN resolution to unilaterally establish an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister would give the Lebanese parliament a grace period until June 10 to ratify it.

If the Lebanese parties do not overcome their differences by that date, the agreement between the United Nations and the government of Lebanon to establish the special tribunal would enter into force.

The council is scheduled to discuss the new draft on Tuesday, and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the current council president, said he expects a vote in the following days.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fuad Siniora asked the UN Security Council earlier this month to take binding action to establish the tribunal. He cited the refusal of opposition-aligned Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to convene a session to ratify the statutes to create the tribunal that have already been approved by his government and the United Nations.

The suicide truck bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005 sparked huge protests against Syria, which was widely seen as culpable. Syria denied involvement but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence.

The issue of an international tribunal has since fuelled a deep political conflict between Siniora’s Western-backed government and the Syrian-backed, Hizbollah-led opposition.

The conflict has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone and erupted into street battles, killing 11 people in recent months.

The original draft resolution called for the Security Council to create a tribunal outside Lebanon with a majority of international judges and an international prosecutor under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which deals with threats to international peace and can be militarily enforced.

At a council meeting on Friday where the three co-sponsors — the United States, Britain and France — formally introduced the draft, Russia and Qatar said they opposed putting the tribunal under Chapter 7.

In an attempt to address their concerns, the revised draft circulated on Friday night and obtained by the Associated Press leaves only part of the resolution under Chapter 7 — the provisions on the grace period until June 10 and the entry into force, on the location of the tribunal, and on its financing.

The provisions on putting the tribunal into operation would not be under Chapter 7.

The revised draft states that “the special tribunal shall commence functioning on a date to be determined by the secretary-general in consultation with the government of Lebanon, taking into account the progress of the work of the International Independent Investigation Commission.”

It asks the secretary-general, “when appropriate” and in coordination with the Lebanese government, to take the necessary measures to establish the tribunal “in a timely manner.”

The investigation commission, led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, has been extended until June 2008. It is probing the Hariri assassination and assisting in 16 other cases. 

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