Mubarak For Lebanon Compromise.
However, the Hizbullah-led opposition still demanded a blocking third of ministerial posts in a "national unity government", while the ruling March 14 Forces continued rejection of that demand. A sixth Hariri-Berri meeting was postponed. Hariri met with several March 14 leaders including Druze chief and MP Walid Jumblatt on March 17 before going to Paris.
French President Jacques Chirac on March 18 awarded Hariri the "Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur" medal in Paris. Chirac said he wanted to "salute Hariri's role in bringing peace and democracy to Lebanon" and "his struggle to bring to justice the assassins of his father. Accompanying Hariri to Paris were Jumblatt, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and his wife MP Strida Geagea, former MP Ghattas Khoury, MP Bahia Hariri, MP Nabil de Freij, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari and MP Bassem Saba'.
Jumblatt on March 18 said Hizbullah's 19+11 formula was "absolutely unacceptable as its goal was hampering the international tribunal and the full implementation of UNSC Resolution 1701". Jumblatt told the opposition to "think twice about their relationship with Syria, as Syria used them in the...[July/August 2006] war with Israel and signed a deal with Israel at the expense of the bodies of those killed in the south". (Jumblatt was referring to a secret Syrian-Israeli dialogue which is said to have gone on for the past three years). Geagea said the opposition was "hampering efforts for any reconciliation...", adding that the March 14 Forces would "not step down from our refusal to give them a vetoing third".
Lebanon's Parliament on March 20 failed to meet on the first day of its summer session, exacerbating tensions between the anti-Syria majority in the assembly and the Hizbullah-led opposition. Mutual recriminations are undermining chances of ending almost four months of tense political and sectarian stand-off ahead of the Arab summit, where Lebanon will be on the agenda. Many MPs from the ruling March 14 coalition demonstrated in Parliament against the refusal of pro-Syria Speaker Berri to convene a regular session. Berri is part of the opposition, being head of the Shi'ite, pro-Syria Amal party.
The Western-backed government has been particularly keen for Parliament to meet in order to approve an agreement between the UN and Beirut on setting up the tribunal. Berri in a news conference on March 20 accused the March 14 MPs of endangering ongoing talks aimed at ending the confrontation, saying: "Their objective is to end the dialogue [with Hariri]".
Berri said he would not convene Parliament as long as there was no government of national unity. The opposition and Lebanon's Syria-sponsored President Emile Lahoud regard the government as unconstitutional under a complex sectarian power sharing system since all five Shi'ite ministers belonging to Hizbollah and Amal resigned from it in November 2006.
Jumblatt blasted Berri's refusal to convene Parliament because, he said, that was "where the fate of the international tribunal and other laws is decided". He said Berri had "hijacked" Parliament on the orders of the Syrians and the Iranians. Jumblatt and other anti-Syria MPs accuse Damascus of being behind the murder of Hariri and say Assad wants to block the tribunal for that reason. Jumblatt said Berri had "ceased being Parliament Speaker" since he was part of the opposition.
The UN investigator probing Hariri's case, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, on March 21 backed creation of an international tribunal. He told reporters after briefing the UNSC on his latest report a tribunal would be "the next logical step" as the Independent International Investigation Commission he headed was a fact-finding body - not a judicial institution that can issue indictments and conduct prosecutions. Without a tribunal, he said "it would be complicated or difficult to justify the existence of the commission", adding: "Establishing a tribunal will be the logical next step after the investigation, or even in parallel to the investigation, since it's absolutely normal that at a certain moment in time it will be up to international prosecutors to look into the facts collected by the commission to see if there is enough evidence to prepare an indictment - and if not, to complete the investigation in this regard".
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|Title Annotation:||Hosni Mubarak|
|Publication:||APS Diplomat News Service|
|Date:||Mar 26, 2007|
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