Lebanese opposition hails Hariri court funding a 'victory'

AFP , Wednesday 30 Nov 2011

Lebanese PM's announcement that his country has met its funding obligations for the UN-backed Hariri tribunal reveals Hezbollah's threat to boycott it has receded

Lebanon's opposition on Wednesday welcomed the prime minister's decision to fund a UN-backed tribunal probing the murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, saying the move marked a tacit recognition by Hezbollah of the court.

"This is a clear and unequivocal victory for the current that never ceased to support the creation of the tribunal against another current that had denounced it as a US-Israeli tool," said Fares Soueid, secretary general of the Western-backed opposition headed by ex-premier Saad Hariri, the slain leader's son.

Soueid told AFP that Prime Minister Najib Mikati's surprise announcement that he had transferred Lebanon's share of funding to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon meant that Hezbollah and its allies recognised the legitimacy of the Netherlands-based court.

"This government, which was formed by Hezbollah and Syria, is back to square one and now recognises the tribunal," Soueid said.

His comments came shortly after Mikati told reporters he had transferred 32 million dollars (28 million euros) to the STL, a move that came after weeks of political wrangling that threatened the collapse of the government.

The STL has indicted four Hezbollah operatives for murdering Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in a car bomb blast in Beirut on 14 February, 2005.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, whose party is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington, has steadfastly pushed with his allies for Lebanon to cut all ties with the tribunal.

The Shiite party and its allies in January toppled Saad Hariri's government over the tribunal.

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