Hariri ‘respects’ but brushes off Iran supremo


BEIRUT – Lebanon’s ruling camp on Tuesday brushed aside comments by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who dismissed a UN probe into the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri as “null”.
“This is Iran’s position,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain Sunni Muslim ex-premier, told a news conference. “We have nothing but respect for Ayatollah Khamenei, and we fully respect all of his opinions, which he is free to hold,” he added. “We in Lebanon, as a government, have our own views of the tribunal,” said Hariri, who heads a deeply divided cabinet.
“There is no doubt that all parties have their own views on this matter, but when it comes to international resolutions, they are international resolutions.” But MPs of Hariri’s pro-Western Future Movement struck a less conciliatory tone, lashing out openly at Iranian cleric.
“It seems that Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks aim to undermine calm in Lebanon and across the Arab world,” Ammar Houry told AFP. “Khamenei’s statements signal (Iran’s) cover for certain local political positions … or at least for Hezbollah,” said Jamal al-Jarrah, another Future Movement legislator.
On Monday, Khamenei dismissed as “null and void” imminent rulings by the UN court probing the 2005 murder of Rafiq Hariri. “This tribunal is receiving orders from elsewhere and whatever ruling it hands down is null and void,” Khamenei said told the visiting Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is reportedly set to indict high-ranking members of the Shiite movement Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful military force, which is backed by Tehran and Damascus. Hezbollah has warned against any attempt to arrest its members, raising fears of instability in the small, multi-religious Mediterranean country.
But Saudi-backed Saad Hariri has vowed to see the court through. The standoff has sparked fears of renewed violence in Lebanon following the STL indictments and regional power-houses Saudi Arabia and Syria have scrambled to find a settlement that would please Lebanon’s feuding camps. Hariri reaffirmed on Tuesday his belief that the two countries’ efforts would eventually lead to an amicable settlement.
“The Saudi-Syrian endeavour is moving forward, albeit not at the pace we had hoped for,” he said. “It will take some time, but it looks positive.”