Arab Leaders Soothe Hizbullah over UN Tribunal in Beirut

Arab Leaders Soothe Hizbullah over UN Tribunal in Beirut

By | 2010-07-30T05:23:00-04:00 July 30th, 2010|News|0 Comments

Syrian President Bashar Assad and Saudi King Abdullah plan to arrive in Lebanon on Friday on a mission to soothe tensions over a United Nations tribunal on the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a close Saudi ally.

The visit is being promoted in Arabic media as a trip to conduct summit talks with Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, is also expected to attend, according to Al Bawaba.

Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said earlier this week that he expects many members of his terrorist organization to be indicted by the tribunal for the murder. Hizbullah has denied any involvement, and Nasrallah roundly condemned the tribunal, which he labeled a Western-backed "Israeli project."

The current unity government, run by Hariri’s son Prime Minister Sa’ad al-Hariri, includes a significant percentage of representatives from Hizbullah. Hariri is a Sunni Muslim, while Hizbullah is Shi’ite, as is its patron, Iran.

Sources quoted by the An Nahar daily on Wednesday said the visiting Arab leaders were attempting to "ward off an explosion whose shrapnel could reach the entire region because the Lebanese issue is the hottest during this stage."

Abdullah was scheduled to meet first in Damascus on Thursday with Assad and pressure him to use his influence to prevent potential unrest from Hizbullah, which is heavily supported both by Syria and Iran. On Wednesday the Saudi monarch was in Cairo to discuss the situation with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Assad has not yet publicly committed to making the trip. If he agrees, it will be his first visit to the Lebanese capital since al-Hariri was assassinated.

Al-Hariri initially blamed Syria for his father’s murder, but subsequently patched up the relationship, and has since made four trips to Damascus. Syria, for its part, has denied any part in the assassination.

Saudi political writer Khalid al-Dakhil contends that the recently tightened international economic sanctions against Iran are also playing a part in the drama. "The tougher sanctions on Iran have a negative impact on Hizbullah, and Hizbullah is not happy about them. But Syria has never abandoned Hizbullah and will not abandon it. But its perspective and calculations have changed," Dakhil said, according to Lebanon’s The Daily Star.

"The visit of King Abdullah and President Assad, who are coming together on Friday, will be an answer for all the questions about stability in Lebanon," Nohad al-Machnouk told the Reuters news agency on Thursday. Al-Machnouk is a member of al-Hariri’s parliamentary bloc.