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Top UN lawyer urges Hariri tribunal approval on Lebanon visit

[JURIST] UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicholas Michel [official profile] promised Tuesday that a tribunal [JURIST news archive] to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri [JURIST news archive] would be established, despite disagreement among Lebanese leaders. In February, the UN and Lebanon reached an agreement to establish an international tribunal, but its implementation has been delayed in Lebanon's deeply fragmented parliament. Lebanon's pro-Syrian parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri [official profile] of the mostly Shi'a Amal Movement [party website, in Arabic] has refused to convene parliament, preventing the ratification of the agreement. Michel said that while many UN Security Council members still want Lebanon to fully approve the tribunal, the Council may establish the tribunal independent of formal Lebanese approval. Michel also added that even after adopting the legal basis for the tribunal, it may take up to an year for it to become operational. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent Michel to Lebanon [JURIST report] to revitalize the ratification process of the tribunal.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora [BBC profile] and the anti-Syrian government have urged the UN to establish a tribunal [JURIST report] over the objections of the country's pro-Syrian opposition, which also includes Lebanese President Emile Lahoud [official profile]. 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 [Wikipedia backgrounder], crossed Lebanon's traditional sectarian lines and culminated in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. Reuters has more.

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