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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le Pays du cèdre plus que jamais dans l’impasse

by Hassane Zerrouky

Lebanon More Than Ever in Deadlock Following UN Resolution

Translated Friday 8 June 2007, by Isabelle Métral

The UN resolution imposing the setting up of an international tribunal to judge the murderers of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri does not meet with unanimous approval in the country of cedars. It might well aggravate political divisions.

By unilaterally imposing - by a 10 out of 15 vote (Russia, China, South Africa, Qatar, and Indonesia abstaining) – the setting up of the international court in charge of judging the murderers of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the UN Security Council has taken the risk of further widening the deep political divide in Lebanon. The least that can be said is that the text, which provides that on June 10 the convention signed in 2006 between the UN and Lebanon on setting up of an international court shall automatically come into effect, has met with a mixed response. Indeed the convention itself stipulated that the setting up of the international tribunal be first ratified by the Lebanese parliament. Failing to get this ratification, the Security Council opted for a unilateral enforcement of the convention.

Who can force acceptance on all parties?

In Lebanon itself the UN decision is far from being universally accepted. It “might even incite those who might feel targeted to have recourse to threat, intimidation, and sabotage”, Al Nahar, a pro-international-court daily warns, while the leftwing daily As Safir wonders who ever can bring all parties to accept the jurisdiction.

Saad Hariri’s supporters and their allies of the “14-March movement” – the Kataëb party, the Lebanese Forces etc. - greeted the resolution with shouts of joy and called the UN decision “a historic victory"; however, these loud manifestations were somewhat tempered by the Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, as he hastened to reassure Syria: “The setting up of the court is not directed against anyone, let alone our sister country Syria”, he declared. The prime minister, whose government has been branded anti-constitutional by General Michel Aoun and his Hezbollah allies is well aware that he has little room for manoeuvre.

And sure enough, not doubting that the setting up of this court is going to be exploited by the US, the Hezbollah called it a “violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty, (…) aggressive interference in its internal affairs” and “an infringement of international rules and UN charter.” And if in Damascus the Syrian government still has not reacted, the press made no bones about using all available arguments against the UN resolution: “It clearly appeared during the debates that preceded the vote that the US administration wanted to take revenge on those who opposed its invasions and its policies in the region,” the Techrine daily declared.

Misgivings and deep concern

This much is certain: the UN decision will contribute little towards dispelling the population’s fears. While the Lebanese army and the radical Islamist organisation Fatah al-Islam fight it out at Nahr al-Bared in the outskirts of Tripoli, many Lebanese fear for the near future. While some are certain (without offering the least proof for it) that Syria is manipulating Fatah al-Islam to prevent the setting up of the international court, to others it is clearly part of a strategy to turn Lebanon into another Iraq- which they say would benefit Israel by distracting attention from its own refusal to retreat from the territories it has occupied since June 1967.

Whichever may be true, wanting a consensus between the Lebanese parties on the setting up of the international court, Lebanon is more than ever in a deadlock. Worse still may follow.

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