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Hariri Demands Response from Miqati on STL before Deciding to Join New Government
 
 
 
 
 
 
27-01-2011
 
Outgoing PM Saad Hariri and his Al-Mustaqbal Movement on Thursday demanded that PM-designate Najib Miqati clarify his position on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) before deciding on whether or not to join the new government.
MP Fouad Saniora, speaking on behalf of Al-Mustaqbal bloc, said Miqati was asked during consultations with Hariri to say clearly whether his government would cease all cooperation with the STL.
"We asked the prime minister-designate to clarify his position (concerning the tribunal) and to mention that clearly in his policy statement," said Saniora following the bloc's meeting with Miqati at Parliament.

The STL was at the heart of a dispute that led Hizbullah and its allies to topple Hariri's government Jan.12.

Mustaqbal bloc said Miqati had been asked to state clearly whether his government would cease all cooperation with the STL.

"We asked the prime minister-designate to clarify his position and state it clearly in his policy statement," said Saniora , whose parliamentary bloc refused to join the new government.

The STL was set up in the aftermath of the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri, Saad's father.

A months-long standoff between Hizbullah and Hariri over the STL led to Hizbullah's walkout from Cabinet January 12 forcing the collapse of Hariri's government.

Hizbullah, blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Washington, had been pressing Hariri to cut all ties with the tribunal, and Miqati is expected to come under the same pressure.

Saniora said Miqati was also asked to say whether he would stop Lebanon's share of funding for the Netherlands-based court, remove the three Lebanese judges on the STL and renounce the protocol of agreement concerning the court.

Miqati did not immediately respond, but in recent days he has said he would make a decision based on dialogue with all sides.

Officials from Hariri's party said that once Miqati clarifies his position, the Future Movement and its allies would decide how to deal with the new government.

"Miqati's answers will condition our attitude toward his government," one official close to Hariri said, requesting anonymity.

He would not clearly state whether members of Hariri's coalition could still join the new government.

Saniora also spoke about weapons, but not Hizbullah weapons.

Hizbullah insists that it needs to maintain its arsenal to ward off any threat from Israel. But the weapons make Hizbullah the most powerful military force in the country — far stronger even than the national army.

Saniora said Miqati should commit to a timetable for the collection of "all (illegal) weapons pointed at the people, except the Resistance weapons which are pointed at Israel."

He said all illegal weapons should be put under the control of Lebanese authorities, where as the "Resistance weapons should be part of a defense strategy, particularly since Hizbullah violated the Doha Accord."

"There should be a commitment that the use of any weapons in Lebanon should be restricted by Lebanese authorities," Saniora told reporters.

The 55-year-old premier designate said this week in an interview with AFP that he hoped to resolve the dispute over the tribunal through dialogue, and acknowledged that Lebanon could not force the tribunal to stop its work.

He added, however, that the country's cooperation with the STL was another question altogether, without elaborating.

Miqati, a moderate lawmaker with good ties to Syria and Saudi Arabia, was meeting the parliamentary groups on Thursday and Friday before reporting back to President Michel Suleiman.

He said he would seek to form a Cabinet that includes all parties, but Hariri's coalition has flatly rejected joining a government headed by a candidate they deem was imposed by Hizbullah.

Miqati, whose appointment has prompted fears of a shift in the balance of power towards Syria and Iran, said that should he fail in his efforts to convince his rivals to join his cabinet, he would form a government of technocrats.
 
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