France appeals for calm in Lebanon ahead of UN indictment
A top French diplomat on Saturday appealed for calm in Lebanon amid a widening crisis over an impending indictment by a UN-backed court on the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
"We call on all political actors in Lebanon to remain calm, serene, and responsible, and that is the purpose" of Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's visit, the diplomat told AFP.
Kouchner, who arrived in Beirut on Friday for a two-day visit, has held talks with President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain former prime minister.
On Saturday, he was also to meet Hezbollah's international relations officer, Ammar Moussawi, and members of Lebanon's pro-Western parliamentary majority.
In his meetings, Kouchner emphasised that all parties in Lebanon should provide the "necessary support and respect for the independence of the tribunal, which must be permitted to conduct its work peacefully," the diplomat added.
The French delegation's visit is the latest in a flurry of diplomatic efforts to contain tensions over the expected indictments from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the 2005 Hariri assassination.
There have unconfirmed reports that the tribunal is set to indict members of Hezbollah in connection with the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others, and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has called on the Lebanese to boycott it.
The Shiite militant group's second-in-command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, warned that any charges against Hezbollah members would be "equivalent to lighting the fuse, to igniting the wick for an explosion."
But Saad Hariri has refused to back down, last week renewing his complete support for the investigation.
© 2010 AFP