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INDICTMENT LODGED IN HARIRI PROBE

Al Jazeera - January 17, 2011

Prosecutor for UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of ex-Lebanon PM submits indictment against suspects.

A prosecutor for the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq al-Hariri, has filed the body's first indictment against suspects in the case.

The confidential documents were handed to the registry on Monday, the tribunal said in a statement.

"The prosecutor of the tribunal has submitted an indictment and supporting materials to the pre-trial judge," it said, though details of suspects named and the charges against them were not released.

"The contents of the indictment remain confidential at this stage".

Daniel Fransen, the pre-trial judge, must confirm the charges before any arrest warrant or summons to appear can be issued.

The tribunal is widely expected to indict members of Lebanon's Hezbollah, a move many fear could rekindle violence in the country.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, said the tribunal has been a source of tension in the country.

"It is widely believed to point the finger at Hezbollah members. Hezbollah has called it a US tool, and ... has alleged it is politicised. It has questioned the way [the tribunal] conducted investigations," she said.

"We heard the secretary-general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, say yesterday that the group will reject any accusation and it will work to defend its reputation as well as its dignity and it will confront it.

"But he stopped short of saying exactly what kind of action the group would take."

Collapsed government

The indictment announcement came less than a week after 11 ministers allied with Hezbollah resigned from the government of Saad al-Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, forcing it to collapse.

The lawmakers withdrew from the unity government last Wednesday over the prime minister's stance on the tribunal.

Talks scheduled for Monday to name a new Lebanese prime minister have been postponed until next week.

Lebanese politicians said that the consultations on a new government could be delayed because of a summit in Damascus on Monday where the leaders of Syria, Qatar and Turkey met to discuss Lebanon's political crisis.

But Nasrallah said late on Sunday that his party would refuse to back Hariri, Lebanon's caretaker prime minister, in forming a new government.

Hezbollah, which has a political bloc in parliament as well as a powerful military wing, commands strong support in Lebanon's Shia Muslim community.

Lebanon's crisis is the result of long-simmering tensions over the UN tribunal's probe of the death of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister and the father of Saad Hariri.

Hezbollah has several times denounced the Netherlands-based tribunal as a conspiracy by the US and Israel. On Monday, the group's al-Manar television said the US was behind the release of the draft indictment as part of a bid to sabotage efforts to solve Lebanon's crisis.

It also accused the US of "pushing the indictment ahead to light the fuse to blow up the bridges for a solution", adding that the "Americans control the indictments in form and content".

Hezbollah had demanded that Saad Hariri's government reject the court's findings even before they come out.

But though he offered some concessions, Hariri refused to end co-operation with the tribunal, prompting Hezbollah's walkout.





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