Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lebanon marks fourth Hariri murder anniversary

Ten of thousands of people gathered this Saturday in Lebanon, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the killing of the former Prime-Minister Rafik Hariri. The participants lashed out at Syria and the Lebanese opposition, and campaigned for the upcoming parliamentary elections in June. According to local media reports, 13 persons were wounded in stone attacks at the end of the demonstration.

February 13

Lebanon on Saturday commemorated the fourth anniversary of ex-premier Rafik Hariri's assassination as final preparations are underway for the international tribunal set up to bring his killers to justice.

The Western-backed parliamentary majority has urged supporters to show up in force at Martyr's Square in central Beirut to demand justice for Hariri and other anti-Syrian figures killed in Lebanon in the last four years.

"They died so that the nation can rise again. The international tribunal will render justice for everyone," according to placards posted throughout the city ahead of the rally.

Hariri died in a massive car bombing in February 2005 that also killed 22 others. The assassination was widely blamed on then Lebanese power-broker Syria, which has denied any involvement.

The attack on the Beirut seafront was one of the worst acts of political violence to rock Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence.

The UN tribunal to try Hariri's alleged killers is due to open its doors on March 1, housed in the former headquarters of the Dutch intelligence service on the outskirts of The Hague.

The tribunal will also try those presumed responsible for a series of attacks on other Lebanese political and media figures.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to support UN moves to bring to justice Hariri's killers.

"As we share our grief with the Lebanese people over the loss of prime minister Hariri, we also share our conviction that his sacrifice will not be in vain," Obama said in a statement

"The United States fully supports the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, whose work will begin in a few weeks, to bring those responsible for this horrific crime and those that followed to justice."

MP Moustapha Allouch, a member of the parliamentary bloc headed by the slain ex-premier's son and political heir, Saad Hariri, said he had no doubt that the tribunal will serve its purpose.

"There are those who had doubts about the tribunal and thought it was a political instrument but it has now become a reality," Allouch told AFP.

Seven suspects have been arrested in connection with Hariri's assassination. Among them are four generals, including the former head of Lebanese state security.

The UN probe has also implicated senior officials from Syria but Damascus has strongly denied any connection with Hariri's death and accuses Washington of using the tribunal as a political weapon.

The Hezbollah-led alliance in Lebanon, which is backed by Syria and Iran, for its part is demanding full transparency as far as the UN probe and tribunal.

"We don't want the ongoing investigation and the tribunal to be politicized because any such move would affect credibility," Hezbollah MP Hassan Hoballah told AFP.

Meanwhile the alliance led by the militant group has accused the parliamentary majority of using Saturday's commemoration to rally voters ahead of legislative elections in June.

Christian leader Michel Aoun, who is allied with Hezbollah, said earlier this week that Hariri's death was "paying off electorally" for the majority.

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