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Lebanon in crisis over Hariri tribunal

[JURIST] A scheduled Saturday meeting of the Lebanese cabinet on the establishment of an international tribunal [JURIST news archive] to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri has thrown Lebanon into crisis again even before it has taken place. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora [BBC profile] called the meeting after pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud rejected [JURIST report] an earlier cabinet approval [JURIST report] of the court as "unconstitutional" on the grounds that a quorum of Shiite ministers was not present. The move nonetheless met with immediate disapproval from leading Shiite lawmakers, including Nabih Berri [official profile], the speaker of the Lebanese parliament and head of the pro-Syrian Amal Party [party website, in Arabic], who said it lacked the President's endorsement. Siniora has offered to postpone the meeting "for a few days" if Berri's party and Shiite militant movement Hezbollah commit to ratifying the court plan, but a government minister said that if they didn't respond positively, the meeting would go ahead. Hezbollah officials have said they support the tribunal, but say Siniora is using the tribunal issue to sideline them. AFP has more.

The UN Security Council approved the terms [JURIST report] of the UN-supported tribunal earlier this week in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's assassination [BBC report] of anti-Syrian Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The proposal previously agreed upon by Annan and the Lebanese government after the Lebanese cabinet's initial meeting must still be formally approved by the Lebanese parliament and ratified by Lebanon's president. Syria has said in a letter to the UN that it will continue to co-operate in the Hariri investigation but objects [AP report] to what it considers premature establishment of a tribunal with which it has "no connection." Preliminary reports by the UN commission investigating the Hariri killing have already implicated Syrian officials [JURIST report].

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