Hariri tribunal delegation meets Lebanon prosecutor

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 30, 2011 6:23 AM
Hariri tribunal delegation meets Lebanon prosecutor

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Members of the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri met Lebanon's state prosecutor on Thursday for talks which officials said were linked to pending indictments.

Neither state prosecutor Saeed Mirza nor the delegation from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon commented immediately after the talks. But officials said the delegation had either handed over indictments, or arrest warrants for people the tribunal wants to question as a step toward issuing those indictments.

The indictments are expected to accuse members of Shi'ite group Hezbollah of involvement in the killing and have already triggered a political crisis which brought down the government of Hariri's son, Saad al-Hariri, in January. Hezbollah, which strongly denied any role in the 2005 assassination, and its allies resigned from Hariri's unity government in January, just days before the tribunal prosecutor filed the still-secret indictments to a pre-trial judge.

The indictments have been twice amended while the pre-trial judge assessed whether there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

Hezbollah and its allies now have a majority in the new government of Najib Mikati, formed two weeks ago after months of political wrangling. Mikati's cabinet met on Thursday to agree a policy statement, including its stance toward the tribunal.

Hezbollah has said the international court is a tool of the United States and Israel and wants Lebanon to halt all cooperation with it, including withdrawing Lebanese judges and ending its share of funding for the court.

Mikati has said he wants the government to honor Lebanon's international commitments unless a national consensus emerges to reverse that position -- which is unlikely given Saad al-Hariri's continued strong support for the tribunal.

Rafik al-Hariri was killed by a huge truck bomb. International condemnation of the attack forced neighboring Syria to end a 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

Six months after the February 14, 2005, assassination, four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were arrested at the request of the U.N. investigator. A report delivered to the U.N. Security Council implicated high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese officials in the murder.

The generals were released in 2009 for lack of evidence.

(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; editing by Robert Woodward)