Daily Star - Lebanese Cabinet Denies Seeking to Alter UN Wording, April 6, 2005
By Nayla Assaf and Khalil Fleihan
Lebanon's Cabinet denied claims it is trying to have the term "terrorist act" removed from a UN Security Council resolution on former Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination. The denial comes hard on the heels of the introduction of a U.S. and French draft resolution, introduced at the Security Council Monday night. The final version of the draft rejected a number of amendments put forward by the Lebanese government. Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud said: "This ministry did not tell its delegation in New York to try and strike off the term 'terrorist' from the description of the criminal act that led to the death of Premier Rafik Hariri." Hammoud's comments follow accusations by the country's political opposition that the government attempted to tamper with the draft resolution's terminology in a bid to avoid any future sanctions against Lebanon under current UN terrorist proscriptions. Meanwhile, Security Council President Guangya Wang said a resolution mandating an international probe into Hariri's killing is likely to come out later this week. Wang, China's UN Ambassador and the current council president, said the security council was still debating minor issues such as the duration of the probe, which some members want to see reduced from six months to three.
France, the U.S. and the U.K., who drafted the resolution, rejected Lebanon's call for major involvement in the inquiry. Instead, the recruitment of inspectors by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will not be subject to Lebanon's approval and the commission will have the authority to determine its own procedures and what role Lebanese authorities will play in the probe. Lebanon had asked for investigators to be given the "right"to interrogate people, rather than the "authority" as demanded by the UN. The government also insisted investigators be allowed to interrogate "officials", instead of "all officials" as the wording of the draft calls for. Both amendments were rejected. But the draft will now include one Lebanese requirement, the endorsement of Annan's opinion "that Lebanon is passing through a sensitive period, that all concerned parties should behave with the utmost restraint and that the future of Lebanon should be decided strictly through peaceful means." The draft resolution is based on the results of a UN fact-finding mission led by Irish police commissioner Peter Fitzgerald which found the Lebanese investigations into Hariri's murder were "flawed."