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Arab League chief sees big risk in Lebanon crisis

Moussa considering calling special Arab League meeting.

January 13, 2011 2:12 by

Lebanon’s political crisis risks deteriorating further and all sides must work calmly to find a solution that allows justice to be served, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Thursday.

“We don’t want Lebanon to move back to square one,” Moussa told reporters in Qatar’s capital Doha, where he is attending a regional meeting. “We thought we had already left this station several years back.”

Moussa was speaking after Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government over a U.N.-backed tribunal which is expected to accuse the Shi’ite group of killing statesman Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.

Moussa said he was consulting with a number of Arab countries on the way forward, and was considering calling for a special meeting of the Arab League, although no decision had been reached yet.

“Perhaps we will leave it for individual intervention for the time being,” he said.

Moussa, echoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said it was important that the special tribunal be allowed to continue its work, although he suggested any immediate move to hand down indictments naming Hezbollah could inflame the situation further.

“The tribunal should be above politics and justice should have its say and Lebanon must have a government,” Moussa said. “But since we were waiting for several years, why not six more months of time in order to defuse the situation… It is very threatening,” he said.

But he underscored that those responsible for Hariri’s killing must be brought to book.

“There was a crime, and the crime should be investigated and the criminals should be punished,” he said.


Moussa said he was shocked by the long-threatened rupture in Lebanon’s political fabric, saying the divisions between Lebanon’s political parties seemed to be deeper than ever.

But he did not go as far as Clinton, who on Wednesday called the political crisis a transparent attempt to subvert justice in the Hariri case, saying sharp words only threatened to exacerbate the already worrisome situation.

“It is bad, it is tense, it is threatening. Therfore I am going to refrain from describing the situation but concentrate on how to act to solve that problem.”

Political analysts have played down the prospect of open armed conflict between Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, and followers of Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, Rafik’s son, who is supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Hezbollah brought down Saad al-Hariri’s government on Wednesday with the resignation of 11 ministers. That followed the failure of Saudi Arabia and Syria to get Lebanese leaders to limit tensions ahead of expected indictments from the tribunal.

Moussa said he hoped that both Saudi Arabia and Syria would continue to try to mediate in the situation, although he said it was unclear if they would be willing or able to do so.

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Jason Neely)

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