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Friday, April 06, 2007 UN lawyer to discuss Hariri tribunal delay with Lebanon parliament speaker

UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel will meet with Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri about the latter’s efforts at stalling the establishment of an international tribunal to probe the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri [official website], UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Thursday. Earlier this week the anti-Syrian majority in the Lebanese parliament approved a petition asking Ki-moon to mandate a tribunal. The UN signed a tribunal agreement with Lebanon in February, but Berri, a Syrian ally, has refused to allow a vote to ratify the tribunal agreement until the idea is approved by President Emile Lahoud , another pro-Syria politician. Both the President and the speaker cite concerns that some might use the investigation for “political ends.” Berri has asked to meet with Michel in conferences hosted by Saudi Arabia as a way of working around the deadlock.

Ki-moon has expressed hope for building a consensus in the Lebanese government, and said he would prefer to not mandate a tribunal. Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive explosion on the Beirut waterfront. Syria is widely believed to have been involved.