June 30, 2011 / 7:40 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. urges Lebanon to act on Hariri indictments

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday welcomed a U.N.-backed tribunal’s indictments in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri and urged Lebanon’s government to act on them.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the indictments and four arrest warrants marked “an important step toward justice and ending impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon.”

Prosecutor Saeed Mirza has not disclosed the contents of the indictments, but they are expected to accuse four Hezbollah members of involvement in the Beirut bombing that killed al-Hariri and 22 others.

The United States has repeatedly said the findings of the tribunal must be respected and has been wary of a new Lebanese government dominated by Hezbollah, which the United States has labeled a terrorist group.

Toner said the United States had not seen the sealed indictments and could not comment on their substance. But he urged the new Lebanese government of Nijab Mikati to act.

“It’s important that the indictments now handed over to the special prosecutor now be acted upon. Obviously we want to see this chapter in Lebanon’s history closed, and that closure involves taking the next steps,” Toner said.

“The sealed indictments have been handed over. We’re now going to look to see what the Lebanese government does next. We’re looking for it to take action,” he said.

There have been fears in Lebanon that indictments of Hezbollah members over the assassination of the prominent Sunni Muslim leader, who was prime minister for several terms between 1992 and 2004, could raise sectarian tensions between factions still struggling with the legacy of its 1975-90 civil war.

Editing by Doina Chiacu

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