The Lebanese Hizbollah group has called for a boycott of the special United Nations tribunal, saying that its investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has a hidden agenda of cooperation with Israel.

In a televised address on Thursday night over Lebanon’s Al Manar television station, Hizbollah Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah declared that the UN investigators have been trying to unearth data that goes beyond the scope of the investigation. “We have remained mum throughout this period despite our knowledge that the investigators have been collecting information about Hizbollah that go beyond the goal of serving the investigation.” He added: “We were also aware that everything the international investigators obtain reaches the hands of the United States and Israel.”

The Hizbollah Secretary General stressed that the investigators had been compiling university student records, DNA and GIS data as well information related to telecom operations in Lebanon. “They entered all sectors and wanted to know everything, things that go well beyond a mere investigation in Hariri’s murder.”

Analysts say Mr. Nasrallah’s call is likely to deepen the polarisation between the Hizbollah and its allies that are backed by Iran and Syria, and the rest of Lebanon’s political class, which has been largely pro-West.

The immediate provocation for the boycott call was the controversial visit on Wednesday by tribunal members to a south Beirut gynecology clinic, frequented by wives and daughters of Hizbollah personnel, where patient profiles were apparently sought. The visit resulted in a scuffle between the women at the clinic and the investigations. Mr. Nasrallah called the visit scandalous. "I think we have reached a very sensitive and dangerous point that has to do with our dignity, pride and honour and which requires of us to take a different stance," he said.

"Why is it necessary for the international investigation to have the medical records of our women?"

"Why is it of concern to them? Why is it necessary for the investigation to have the gynaecology records of your women, wives, daughters and sisters?" "Continuing cooperation with those encourages more violations of the country and helps with the aggression against the resistance.”

In August, Mr. Nasrallah had accused Israel of masterminding Hariri’s assassination and had presented video material, captured by Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which Hizbollah had been able to tap, to establish his point. Hariri was killed in February 2005 when an explosives laden truck blew up along Beirut’s Mediterranean waterfront, targeting the motorcade in which the former Prime Minister was traveling.

A spokesman for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) also slammed Hizbollah’s boycott call, saying it is a “deliberate attempt to obstruct justice”.

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