Former Lebanese PM Urges Hezbollah Cooperation in Hariri Probe

Posted July 12th, 2011 at 10:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has urged Lebanon to arrest four Hezbollah members accused in his father's 2005 murder, saying the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militant group cannot change the course of justice.

Mr. Hariri warned Tuesday that Lebanon “will pay the price” if Hezbollah refuses to turn over members of the group indicted for the assassination.

He did not elaborate, but appeared to hint at possible international sanctions if the Lebanese government fails to arrest Hezbollah members or cooperate with the U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Mr. Hariri and 22 other people were killed in a massive 2005 Beirut truck bombing. The tribunal has issued arrest warrants for four Hezbollah members indicted in the case. But the militant group has denied involvement.

Saad Hariri spoke Tuesday in Paris during an interview with a private Lebanese television station , his first public appearance since the indictments were released. He said he decided to speak up to counter Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's “misleading accusations” about the tribunal.

The former prime minister also said Hezbollah's possession of weapons is at the root of the conflict in Lebanon. The heavily armed Shi'ite group says it needed the firepower to fight Israel, but in 2008 its supporters fought followers of Mr. Hariri – a Sunni Muslim – in sectarian clashes during which dozens were killed.

Earlier Tuesday, the tribunal offered victims of the attack a chance to participate in the trial and help in seeking compensation. It issued a statement that said people who suffered “physical, mental or material harm” from the attack could apply to take part in legal proceedings and seek compensation in Lebanese courts.

Saad Hariri left Lebanon shortly after Hezbollah and its allies forced the collapse of his pro-Western government in January. He said he has voluntarily chosen to stay away in order to allow the new government to take shape, but that he will return at some point.

In June, he said the arrest warrants that were issued for his father's assassination represent a “historic moment” for Lebanon.