Lebanon’s March 14 parties warned on Wednesday that stability was tied to Hizbullah’s commitment to the Cabinet policy statement’s clauses on both the UN-backed tribunal and the “right of the resistance, the Lebanese Army and people” to resist Israel. But Hizbullah’s second-in-command Sheikh Naim Qassem emphasized that his party’s position toward the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was tied to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “correct the course of the STL” and indict Israel in line with evidence presented by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
“We delayed taking a position concerning the STL in line with the Syrian-Saudi-Lebanese summit to give it an opportunity to correct the wrong course of the indictment and distance it from politicization,” Qassem told Al-Rai daily in remarks to be published Thursday. “We did not extend nor shorten the grace period,” Qassem added. Qassem was referring to a Parliament session in which Future Movement MPs reported that Hizbullah lawmakers had said that the period granted for the STL to correct its course had passed. Hizbullah lawmakers made the comments during a meeting of the Finance and Budget parliamentary committee last week to approve an article in the 2010 budget to fund the UN-backed tribunal, which oppositions MPs stood against. Qassem stressed that it was imperative to take a stand against the funding of the STL, adding that the tribunal is seeking chaos in Lebanon until proven otherwise.
Last month, Nasrallah condemned the STL as an Israeli project saying the court would indict Hizbullah members in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as part of a plot aimed against the resistance. “We will see if the STL amends its course based on what we submitted and if it would take into consideration evidence presented by Sayyed Nasrallah and accuse Israel as well as rely on concrete evidence,” Qaseem said. However, the March 14 Secretariat General reiterated on Wednesday its members’ unconditional support for the STL as a mean “not only to put an end to assassinations but to guarantee the future of Lebanon, its state and freedom.” Similarly, Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat voiced support for the STL to uncover the truth behind the murder and as the only way to pave the road for stability in Lebanon as well as preserve a free democratic political system. “Calm necessitates a political decision from the group that provoked the situation. We in the Future Movement and the March 14 Forces defend the STL and the state institutions,” Fatfat said. “No one can give up on the principle of the state and the international tribunal because it is a real fact and a real means to achieve stability in Lebanon and strengthen the Lebanese political system,” Fatfat added.
Commenting on Tuesday’s Cabinet session during which the president and the premier called for political calm, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Michel Pharaon said commitment to the ministerial statement guaranteed stability. The Cabinet during Tuesday’s session failed to take any practical decisions with regard to disputed issues as ministers traded accusations over the presence of armed members at Beirut Rafik Hariri’s International Airport. On Wednesday, the March 14 Secretariat General slammed Hizbullah’s decision to escort former Major General Jamil al-Sayyed, condemning it as an invasion of the airport by “armed militia groups and cars without license plates.” Hizbullah members escorted Sayyed from his plane and allowed him access to the airport’s guest hall, where the latter held a news conference without previous authorization from the Foreign Ministry. Qassem said members who escorted Sayyed were legitimate bodyguards of political officials and ministers, including those representing Hizbullah at the airport to welcome the former head of General Security.
Commenting on the issue, Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud said during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that weapons seen at the airport belonged to bodyguards of MPs and officials. The March 14 Secretariat also urged the judiciary and Lebanese security officials to take the necessary legal measures against Sayyed and those responsible for the airport incident “because backing down will underscore the triumph of the militia logic against that of the state.” Earlier last week, State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza summoned Sayyed for questioning over threats against Prime Minister Saad Hariri as well as security and judicial officials including Mirza himself, whom Sayyed accused of being behind false witnesses in investigations of the Hariri case. Sayyed has refused to comply with Mirza’s summons “given a personal dispute” with the state prosecutor, saying the latter is not an eligible party to judge in the case. Court of Cassation Judge Elias Bou Nassif was reportedly looking on Wednesday into Sayyed’s demand to lift Mirza’s hands off the case. Sayyed, along with the country’s top three security officers, was arrested in 2005 by the UN investigation committee on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Hariri before being released in 2009 after former witnesses recanted their testimonies upon which Sayyed was jailed. In a statement by his press office Wednesday, Sayyed slammed Hariri’s comments during the Cabinet meeting after the daily Al-Akhbar quoted the premier as saying that the “case of the four officers cannot be compared to the blood of 20 martyrs.”
“The officers were subject to injustice but they returned home but what about the rights of my martyr father and the others,” Al-Akhbar quoted Hariri as saying. Sayyed said the murder of the former premier does not justify injustice against the four officers.