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PRESS CONFERENCE BY FORMER PRESIDENT OF LEBANON

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

9 February 2007

The Government of Lebanon and its parliamentary majority remained committed to the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others, former President Amine Gemayel said this afternoon.

He stressed at a Headquarters press conference that the need to move towards establishing the tribunal was as strong as ever. No other country in the Middle East had suffered as many political assassinations, all of which remained unresolved. Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, the former President’s son, was gunned down in Beirut last November.

The stakes remained very high and the truth about such terrorist actions was essential in empowering Lebanon’s democracy, Mr. Gemayel said. An end to impunity would contribute significantly to consolidating the rule of law and preventing further political assassinations. Seeking truth rather than revenge, the Government preferred to see the tribunal established as agreed with the United Nations and, together with the parliamentary majority, it had done all it could to move the necessary constitutional process forward.

He said the Lebanese Government’s strategic objective remained the re-establishment of full State authority throughout the country; resolution of the Shebaa Farms question, leading to a permanent ceasefire [with Israel]; and revival of the 1949 Armistice agreement. Those were essential conditions for establishing security in south Lebanon, for political stability and economic progress. Lebanon had to be protected from being a theatre of regional conflicts, and full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) was crucial for that purpose.

[The Lebanon-Israeli Armistice was one of a series of agreements concluded under the aegis of United Nations mediator Ralph Bunche, as empowered by Council resolution 62 (1948). They were concluded in a series of meetings between representatives of Israel and each of the Arab States. The Armistice was signed at Ras an Naqurah on the Lebanese-Israeli border.]

Asked how confident he was that the international tribunal would be implemented, Mr. Gemayel said its establishment was essential for Lebanon and for security in the Middle East. Having seen many assassinations and attempted assassinations, the country must urgently stop such acts for the sake of its democracy and its democratic institutions. The tribunal must be established if the country was to be considered on the threshold for greater stability and more reconciliation in the region.

Given the Lebanese Government’s inability to uncover the truth about the assassinations, why would an international investigation be more successful? another journalist asked.

In response, Mr. Gemayel pointed out that years of foreign occupation and domination had paralysed Lebanon’s legal, security and investigative institutions. While they were being rebuilt, it was normal for the Security Council to support the country’s march towards progress, including by supporting its judiciary and other institutions.

Regarding the Government’s capacities, he told another correspondent that technical abilities were available and the international investigation would provide whatever guarantees that national institutions failed to provide for the reasons already cited.

Asked whether he favoured the establishment of the tribunal under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the former President reiterated the need for justice to be served. The Lebanese people and the international community were duty-bound to know the truth behind the assassinations and why their country was subjected to threats by those who wished to keep it hidden. That would serve the interests of Lebanon and of peace and stability in the wider region. As for the modalities, the Government attached priority to Chapter VI of the Charter.

What could Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority do to remedy the existence of “unique political institutions … of somewhat dubious sovereignty”? another journalist asked.

Mr. Gemayel replied that the implementation of Lebanon’s role as a space for harmonious coexistence among various religious communities would be a starting point for similar implementation elsewhere. Consensus leading to a breakthrough in the prevailing crisis would enable Lebanon once again to play a constructive role in the entire Middle East.

Another correspondent asked about the core of the trouble that had plagued the country in the 1920s.

The former President said, when they met together without foreign intervention, influence or interference, they had been able to solve their problems, strengthen the national consensus and improve their democratic system. Unfortunately, there was a foreign dimension preventing the Lebanese people from achieving those goals.

Asked to comment on a statement yesterday by the Syrian Reform Party referring to “the continuous flow of armaments from Syria into Lebanon”, and to reports that Hizbollah was acquiring missiles, Mr. Gemayel said: “We are for the disarmament of all the non-official groups in Lebanon. Only the Lebanese Army and official security forces should carry arms.”

In response to a question on foreign interference by Syria while American and French intervention were equally heavy-handed, he said Lebanon had recently held democratic elections and the decision on the international tribunal had been approved overwhelmingly by its democratically elected Parliament. That legitimate institution was entitled to take such political and national decisions.

Pressed to say which countries he meant by citing a “foreign dimension”, he said it was very well known that Lebanon was caught in the middle of a regional conflict and that several neighbouring countries were involved, mainly Syria and Iran.

Asked why Lebanon did not hold new elections to avoid the possibility of a new civil war, the former President said elections could not be held every time there was disagreement. The current Parliament had been elected less than a year ago and it must be given the time to undertake its duties and functions until the end of its mandate. Any attempt to obstruct the Lebanese system was an attempt to “abort” that system and its institutions.

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For information media • not an official record



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