Middle East

Press divided over UN arrest warrants for Hariri murder

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati
Image caption Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati faces a stark choice between justice and stability

The press in Lebanon and the wider region is split in its response to the issuing of four arrest warrants by the UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In Lebanon itself, the response was divided between those papers loyal to the Hariri dynasty, which hailed the UN court's indictments as a triumph for justice, and papers close to Hezbollah - which has been implicated in the case - seeing the move as a political one intended to pave the way for further Israeli military action against the organisation.

The pan-Arab press warned that the issuing of the arrest warrants might be seen as a provocation by Hezbollah's allies in Syria and Iran and risk triggering a new round of sectarian conflict.

Several Israeli commentators were sceptical that the Lebanese government - in which Hezbollah is a dominant force - would be capable of acting on the indictments and arrest those accused of involvement in Hariri's murder.

Lebanese press

Nai'la Tuini in Al-Nahar

Today is a historic day for all of Lebanon because it opens a window for retrieving the state and gives a real chance to those who want to build a country that is not based on crime, corruption and collaboration … It is a historic day because it brings hope to all the Lebanese who believe in justice and defend the truth.

Editorial in Al-Mustaqbal

Time is up for the killers as the time of justice begins.

Editorial in The Daily Star

The fact that an indictment was issued represents progress for all Lebanon. It is not, however, the end … Active co-operation is needed if Lebanon is to uphold its STL commitment. There is no half measure to be had; an obligation made to justice should bear no regard to the political climate.

Sati Nur-al-Din in Al-Safir

Nobody could have imagined that the four Hezbollah members indicted by the Special Tribunal of Lebanon [STL] might one day be arrested by the Lebanese security authorities and sent to the International Criminal Court in the Hague… The worst thing that Lebanon could do right now is to choose a collision course with the STL.

Fady Noun in French-language L'Orient - Le Jour

It's the hour of truth. Six years after the murder of Rafik Hariri, the indictment in this case has been issued - even if still in a sealed envelope - and four international arrest warrants have been delivered … Long feared on account of Hezbollah's veiled threats, the indictment divides Lebanon and gives rise to fears of renewed violence.

Ibrahim al-Amin in Al-Akhbar

It is easy to draw the conclusion... that the political moment the tribunal chose to issue its political indictment is directly linked to ongoing preparations for a new Israeli war on Lebanon's resistance (Hezbollah) and possibly Syria.

Ra'uf Shahuri in Al-Anwar

The surprise was complete after Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said during a news conference that his government would act responsibly and realistically … In a few days' time, the STL indictment will be swept under the carpet.

Pan-Arab press

Editorial in Al-Quds Al-Arabi

The question that strongly arises after the indictments is how Mikati's government will deal with the mechanisms to implement the decision especially the aspect of arrests?… The indictments and the timing might be a provocation not only for Hezbollah but its allies in Syria and Iran to push them to get involved in a war on Lebanese territory as they will not simply stand by and watch the party being attacked... The whole region is open for all possibilities, including civil and sectarian war.

Basim al-Jasar in Al-Sharq al-Awsat

Najib Mikati's government will not live happy days and Lebanon will not know a promising summer or a cool spring. Things will remain pending and breaths will stay held awaiting developments in Syria.

Israeli press

Smadar Peri in Yediot Aharonot

What will happen when the Lebanese government ignores the charge sheets and the extradition warrants against four Hezbollah activists and does not co-operate with the international court in The Hague? We will very soon discover, because this is exactly what is going to happen … If someone by chance dares to go [to Hezbollah headquarters] and wave the charge sheets, he will not come out of there on his feet.

Boaz Bismuth in Yisrael Hayom

Lebanon is nervous and rightly so, because the indictments hint that Lebanon is again entering a period of uncertainty. Sunni Prime Minister Mikati promised to respect the wish of the international community. However, the composition of his government and Hezbollah's right of veto torpedo any possible goodwill on his part.

Jonathan Spyer in The Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah has the hard power simply to refuse to co-operate with the tribunal, and to prevent by force any attempt to apprehend its members.

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