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  • Philipp Ambach
    Aug 26, 2007
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      Netherlands Agrees to Host Tribunal in
      Assassination of Former Lebanese PM

      Associated Press
      August 17, 2007

      The Netherlands has agreed to host the tribunal that will prosecute suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the United Nations announced. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will send a delegation to the Netherlands in the coming weeks to discuss arrangements, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Friday.

      A deeply divided U.N. Security Council approved a resolution on May 30 to unilaterally establish an international tribunal after the speaker of the Lebanese parliament refused to call a session to have members ratify the statutes to create it. The vote was 10-0 with major powers Russia and China among the five abstentions. The resolution gave the Lebanese parliament until June 10 to act. When it did not, the U.N.-Lebanon agreement automatically entered into force, creating a tribunal outside Lebanon with a majority of international judges and an international prosecutor. Council diplomats have said that establishing the court could take a year.

      The suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005 sparked huge protests against Syria , which was widely seen as culpable. Syria denied involvement but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon , ending a 29-year presence. The issue of an international tribunal has since fueled a deep political conflict between Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's Western-backed government and the Syrian-backed, Hezbollah-led opposition. The conflict has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone and erupted into street battles, leaving over a dozen dead and many injured in recent months.

      The Netherlands already hosts the U.N.'s highest judicial organ, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague . Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told Dutch radio Thursday that the Netherlands will insist as a condition for hosting the Lebanon tribunal that those convicted serve their sentences in another country. Verhagen said the Netherlands also wants assurances of the Lebanon tribunal's funding.

      Also in the United Nations on Friday, France circulated a draft resolution that would extend the mandate of the 13,600-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon and call for a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution to last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war. The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, emphasizes the need for greater progress in resolving these issues and reiterates the Security Council's intention "to consider further steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution."

      Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora sent a letter asking the council to renew the mandate of the force, known as UNIFIL, for a year, and that is what the resolution would do. The current mandate of the force — comprising 11,428 ground troops, 2,000 maritime personnel, 185 staff officers and 20 local staffers — expires on Aug. 31. The U.N. force, along with 15,000 Lebanese troops, was deployed along Lebanon 's border with Israel to enforce the Security Council resolution that ended the Israeli-Hezbollah war, which killed more than 1,000 people in Lebanon and 159 people on the Israeli side.