Lebanon seals STL deal

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Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati arrives to deliver a news conference at the government palace in Beirut, 30 November 2011. (Photo: REUTERS - Mohamed Azakir)

Published Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Updated 4:28pm: Lebanon has paid its share of the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), ending a standoff that threatened to bring down the government, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Wednesday.

The Lebanese government clinched a deal to fund the STL, and transferred the roughly US$35 million owed to the court, Mikati told a press conference.

Mikati's five-month old cabinet was on the brink of collapse due to a stalemate over funding the UN-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Mikati confirmed the news broken by a Lebanese official speaking on condition of anonymity early Wednesday.

"An agreement has been reached for funding the court without having to put the matter to the cabinet or parliament," the official said, declining to be named.

The Lebanese official also claimed the funds had been transferred through Lebanon's humanitarian arm, the Higher Organization for Aid, thus bypassing cabinet approval.

Nabil Nicolas, MP for the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Hezbollah ally, disputed this, alleging the funds came from the Prime Minister's budget, which also does not require a cabinet vote.

Nicolas told Al-Akhbar that the FPM supported justice, but considered the STL illegitimate.

"We are not against justice, but we are against the illegality of the tribunal," he said.

"What is important is that I didn't vote on funding. It doesn't concern me how the prime minister did it, as long as the majority agrees to it," the FPM MP added.

Mikati threatened to resign last week if the funding was not approved.

Hezbollah, Lebanon's most powerful political force, objected to government funding of the court, accusing the STL of being a US-Israeli political project.

The tribunal indicted four Hezbollah members in the murder, prompting a strong denial from the Shia group.

The STL said via Twitter it was "greatly encouraged" by Mikati's announcement, and that it will confirm the transfer of funds once it is received.

The opposition March 14 bloc, headed by Saad Hariri, the son of the slain former prime minister, criticized the way the "money was smuggled" to the STL, noting that it did not receive cabinet approval.

March 14 urged the Lebanese government to fully cooperate with the tribunal and handover the four Hezbollah suspects.

Officials from Hezbollah and its ally, Amal, declined to comment when contacted by Al-Akhbar.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP, NNA)

Comments

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This is 35 million dollars that could have fed and clothed and housed a lot of poor lebanese. ya 7aram especially when we know this will not produce anything we don't know(because we already know it and who cares anyways). But this was spent to cancel out the dirty sectarian fear-mongering of the incapable M14. Slick-haired Saad Harriri reacted with "dang it" upon hearing the news I am sure.

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