The filing of an indictment by the special United Nation prosecutor in Lebanon represented “an important step toward ending the era of impunity for murder in Lebanon,” United States President Barack Obama said Monday.
In a statement, Mr. Obama also said the Special Tribunal for Lebanon must be allowed to continue its work “free from interference and coercion,” charging that opponents of the probe were manufacturing a crisis, but did not single out the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has denounced the tribunal.
He said efforts to undercut the tribunal “only legitimise its efforts and suggest its opponents have something to hide.” The tribunal has been investigating the bombing death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Details of the indictment were not expected to be released for another month, according to a spokesman of recently toppled premier Saad Hariri’s alliance, Fares Soyeid.
Lebanon has been bracing for weeks for the filing of the indictment, which has provoked a political crisis as the Shiite movement Hezbollah withdrew from the government of Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated leader.
Hezbollah is angry amidst speculation that its members would be targeted in the indictment, and withdrew from the government after Mr. Hariri refused to comply with demands that he disregard the findings of the tribunal.
Without naming Hezbollah, Mr. Obama charged that “those who have tried to manufacture a crisis and force a choice between justice or stability in Lebanon are offering a false choice, as the Lebanese people have a right to both justice and stability.” Mr. Obama said that attempts to fuel instability in Lebanon or the region only “undermine the very freedom and aspirations that the Lebanese people seek and that so many nations support.” “At this critical moment, all friends of Lebanon must stand with the people of Lebanon,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama appealed to all factions in Lebanon for calm and restraint.
Keywords: Lebanon political crisis