Hezbollah ally warns of civil strife in Lebanon
The Shiite group denies any role in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Beirut: A key Hezbollah ally on Friday warned that an international indictment of members of the Islamic militant group in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could lead to new civil strife in Lebanon.
A high-ranking Hezbollah militant was among four people named in an indictment by the UN-backed tribunal investigating Hariri's 2005 assassination. The Shiite group denies any role in the killing and has vowed never to turn over any of its members.
The indicted Hezbollah figure, Mustafa Badreddine, appears to have a storied history of militancy.
He is suspected of building the powerful bomb that blew up the US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 Americans, mostly Marines, according to a federal law enforcement official and a book "Jawbreaker," by Gary Berntsen, a former official who ran the Hezbollah task force at the CIA.
The warning on Friday came from Druse leader Walid Jumblatt, a partner in the government whose support would be crucial if Lebanese authorities are to cooperate with prosecutors of the international court.
At a press conference, Jumblatt said the need to preserve peace in Lebanon trumps the need for justice in the Hariri case. He pointed to widespread fears that the case could further divide the country, which has been recovering from decades of bloodshed, including a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990 and recent sectarian battles.
"As much as justice is important for the martyrs and the wounded, so too civil peace and stability is the hoped-for future," he said at a news conference. "Civil peace is more important than anything else."
The current government, dominated by Hezbollah's allies, is seen as deeply unlikely to work with the Netherlands-based tribunal. But the ruling coalition relies on Jumblatt's bloc to keep its majority in parliament, and his position has been unclear. A notoriously mercurial leader known for frequently switching sides in Lebanon's shifting alliances, he has given contradictory signals.
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