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U.N. Security Council To Consider Establishing Lebanese Tribunal

15 May 2007

United States to submit draft resolution on killing of former prime minister

United Nations -- The United States expects the U.N. Security Council to consider a draft resolution that would establish a special tribunal to hear cases arising from the international probe into the bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and several others.

Saying "we cannot let the Lebanese down," U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told journalists May 15 that a draft resolution establishing the tribunal may be forwarded to the 15-nation Security Council by the end of the week.

Diplomats say that the resolution would be co-sponsored by the United States, Britain and France.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a letter from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora May 14 asking that the issue of the tribunal be put before the Security Council "as a matter of urgency."  The prime minister asked that the council's resolution be binding.  Siniora and the majority of the Lebanese Parliament have been blocked in establishing the tribunal by a pro-Syrian minority.  U.N. efforts to find common ground among the Lebanese factions failed last month.

Hariri and others were killed in a bombing in February 2005 in Beirut. That same month, the United States recalled its ambassador to Syria over suspected Syrian involvement in the assassination. (See related article.)

Khalilzad, who is president of the Security Council for May, said that "for reasons of justice, for reasons of long-term stability of Lebanon, and the fact that the Lebanese themselves have requested our help, we need to move and move expeditiously."

"It is very important that the people who have participated in political murder be brought to justice.  That is important for long-term stability in Lebanon," Khalilzad said, speaking in his capacity as the chief U.S. envoy to the United Nations.

Asked about warnings that there would be violence or instability if the United Nations set up the tribunal, the ambassador said, "We believe that the risks of not taking action are greater."

"Of course, it would have been desirable if this could have been done internally [by the Lebanese Parliament], we all agree to that," Khalilzad said.  "But the fact is that we are where we are and now the democratically elected Lebanese government has asked the Security Council's help ...  and we need to respond."

"We cannot allow killers to get away with impunity," he said.

Khalilzad said that "the next two or three days will be critical" as negotiations on the resolution proceed.  But, the ambassador added, "there is a growing appreciation in light of the prime minister's letter that we need to take action and move forward on this."

A transcript of Khalilzad’s remarks is available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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