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Saturday, April 14, 2007 Top UN lawyer to push for Hariri tribunal on Lebanon visit

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced [statement] Friday that he is dispatching UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicholas Michel [official profile] to assist the Lebanese government and “the country’s other political leaders to end their political impasse and set up a special tribunal as soon as possible” to bring the suspected plotters behind the high-profile assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri archive]. In February, the UN and Lebanon reached an agreement to establish the international Hariri tribunal , however, its implementation has been delayed in Lebanon’s deeply fragmented parliament. Lebanon’s pro-Syrian parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri of the mostly Shi’a Amal Movement [party website, in Arabic] has refused to convene parliament, preventing the ratification of the agreement.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the anti-Syrian majority in the Lebanese parliament have urged the UN to establish a tribunal over the objections of the country’s pro-Syrian opposition, which also includes Lebanese President Emile Lahoud . Ban has stated that it is too soon to establish a tribunal by a UN Security Council mandate, but that he hopes to construct a consensus within the Lebanese government. Hariri’s assassination provoked an uproar in Lebanon and amongst the international community against the Syrian presence in Lebanon. The populist response, often referred to as the Cedar Revolution, crossed Lebanon’s traditional sectarian lines and culminated in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country.