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Starting talks, tribunal for Hariri assassination

Security Council asks Annan to start talks on tribunal for Hariri assassination

The creation of a tribunal to try those responsible for last year’s assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others took a step forward today as the Security Council unanimously voted to ask Secretary-General Kofi Annan to consult with the country’s Government on the matter – a move immediately welcomed by an official from Beirut.

“My Government considers the unanimous vote on this resolution, coupled with Lebanese consensus on subject, as a clear indication of the international community’s strong commitment and determination to punish all those involved in this terrorist crime,” Boutros Assaker, acting Secretary-General of the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigrants, told the Security Council.

By following up on the investigation of Prime Minister Hariri and others, the tribunal will “deter criminals and will promote security and stability in Lebanon and throughout the region,” he observed.

The resolution adopted today requests Mr. Annan to negotiate an agreement with the Lebanese Government “aimed at establishing a tribunal of an international character based on the highest international standards of criminal justice.”

Mr. Assaker pledged that his Government “will spare no effort” to conclude negotiations on the matter as quickly as possible.

The resolution, sponsored by the United Kingdom and the United States, also acknowledges that the adoption of a legal basis for the tribunal “would not prejudice the gradual phasing-in of its various components and would not predetermine the timing of the commencement of its operations, which will depend on the progress of the investigation.”

Currently, the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) is probing the Hariri assignation. It was created after an earlier UN mission deemed Lebanon's own probe seriously flawed and Syria primarily responsible for the political tension preceding Mr. Hariri’s murder, and has already reported finding evidence pointing to both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in the 14 February 2005 bombing, which killed the Prime Minister and 22 others.

In its resolution today, the Council asked Mr. Annan to report on his talks, including on “options for a funding mechanism appropriate to ensure the continued and effective functioning of the tribunal.”

In a preliminary report to the Security Council released a week ago, the Secretary-General recommended that a mixed tribunal, with both Lebanese and international participation, would best serve justice.

Among the issues that must be considered, he said, is whether or not all terrorist attacks in Lebanon since 1 October 2004 should fall into the jurisdiction of the tribunal, since the Council has raised the possibility that the UNIIIC could expand its scope.

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