BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese President Emile Lahoud warned the United Nations on Tuesday that setting up a tribunal for suspects in the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri could cause instability in Lebanon.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urging the United Nations Security Council to set up the tribunal unilaterally because efforts to secure full Lebanese approval had hit a dead end.
Lahoud said such a move “would imply a full bypass of the constitutional mechanisms in Lebanon.”
It would “not only threaten Lebanon’s stability ... but also hamper the court’s judicial capacities to hold an impartial trial,” he said, quoting from a letter he sent Ban in February.
He said Siniora was “falsifying facts to drag the Security Council ... into siding with one Lebanese party against the other.”
But in New York, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, this month’s Security Council president, said consultations over a resolution to create the tribunal had begun, and that he expected a draft to be circulated by the end of the week.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to convene parliament to approve the court plans because he, like Lahoud, considers Siniora’s government unconstitutional.
Both Berri and Lahoud are allies of Syria. Lebanese leaders who back Siniora’s government accuse them of acting on Syrian orders to derail the court. They accuse Damascus of the Hariri killing, which was followed by attacks on other anti-Syrian figures. Syria denies involvement.
The opposition, which also includes the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, have said they accept the idea of the court but fear it will be used as a political tool and want to discuss its mandate.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs David Welch, who arrived in Beirut on Tuesday for talks with Lebanese leaders, told reporters: “I am confident that this tribunal will be born and see the light.”
His remarks were translated into Arabic by the Lebanese television station LBC.
Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold in New York