Mikati Makes End-Run on Hizbullah to Fund STL
Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati averted the collapse of his Hizbullah-dominated government by opting to fund the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) from his own office's coffers. The money will be channeled through the Higher Relief Committee.
"This morning, I transferred Lebanon's share of the [budget for the] tribunal," Mikati said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
"I cannot be a prime minister for a government that does not comply with international resolutions, therefore I transferred Lebanon’s share of the tribunal," Mikati said. Mikati had threatened to resign if the funding was not secured.
"This is a national decision to preserve Lebanon," he added. "The decision stemmed from my desire to protect Lebanon ... as people, army, and resistance, and also from my belief in the right to achieve justice, as [we] should not overlook an assassination of a former prime minister."
Funding for the Hague-backed STL, which is tasked with investigating and prosecuting the 2005 assassination of late prime minister Rafiq Hariri, has been the cause of repeated cabinet crises since Mikati formed his government in July.
Earlier this year the STL indicted four Hizbullah terrorists for the car-bombing that killed Hariri and at least 22 others. Hizbullah and its parliamentary allies have refused to hand over the accused while condemning the tribunal as a Zionist cat’s-paw designed to undermine "the resistance."
In an immediate reaction to Mikati's decision STL officials said via twitter they were “greatly encouraged by the Lebanese PM's announcement that [the] 2011 contribution to the STL has been transferred to our account.”
“We look forward to receiving the money. When we do we will confirm that it has arrived,” it added.
While the opposition Future Movement-led March 14 coalition hailed the move as a “victory to the principle of funding,” it condemned the means by which the money was paid.
March 14 “deplores the way funding has been smuggled,” the coalition said in a statement, urging the government to insist Hizbullah hand over the four suspects.
It also blasted the way a “national, justice issue has been equalized to a natural disaster.” The Higher Relief Committee has responsibility for natural calamities.
The Future Movement and March 14 coalition - led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, son of late prime minister Rafiq Hariri - have become increasingly entrenched in their criticism of Hizbullah's terror militias and arms stockpiles.
The Islamic Movement, they say, has consistently used terror and political assassination to undermine the will of the people and sovreignty of Lebanon's government over the past four decades. Saad Hariri and his government were brought down in January over his insistence the STL be funded.
Hizbullah and its March 8 allies did not immediately respond to Mikati's announcement he planned to circumvent their opposition to funding the STL by using his own budget.