debkafile Exclusive: A surprise UN-Lebanese signing establishes the Special Hariri Tribunal. Damascus expected to fight back inside Lebanon and on

The director general of Lebanon’s ministry of justice and UN under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs Nicholas Michel signed an agreement in Beirut Tuesday, Feb. 6, setting up a special tribunal to prosecute the alleged killers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in Feb. 2005. A legal formula circumvented the Lebanese constitutional impediment in its path. Syria, whose president Bashar Asad and close family are suspected of a hand the murder, is unlikely to let the tribunal start work without further acts of violence.
debkafile‘s sources report that the surprise signing was ordered by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after Serge Brammertz threatened to quit as head of the UN probe into the Hariri murder and 14 other bombings against anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon, unless the tribunal was set up. It had been delayed by a Lebanese constitutional stalemate. Prime minister Fouad Siniora was prevented from summoning parliament to ratify the tribunal by the refusal of two key pro-Syrian figures, Speaker Nabih Berri and president Emil Lahoud, to cooperate.
The breakthrough came about after high-powered American, French and Lebanese officials meeting in Paris were handed a solution by American international law experts hired by the US State Department. They proposed that the agreement signed by Lebanon and the UN would contain the following clause: The tribunal’s establishment and operation is authorized under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter whereby UN Security Council resolutions are validated in practice for all UN member-states by means of a simple signature by an accredited government representative without requiring any further ratification.
Ban Ki-moon, determined to prevent Brammertz’s resignation and the first major crisis of his term in office, while at the same time not letting the cat out of the bag, commented diplomatically Tuesday that he hoped the Lebanese government “would take the necessary measures to ratify this process in line with the country’s constitutional requirements.”
This development catches Asad between two impossible situations: the list of suspects Serge Brammertz proposes to submit to the tribunal will include his brother and brother-in-law and several generals, thereby exposing the mainstays of his regime to charges of assassination and terror. But if he refuses to turn them over, the tribunal will apply to the UN Security Council for extreme sanctions against his regime.
The Syrian ruler’s only logical course is yet another bid to overthrow Fouad Siniora’s government and invalidate the signature which set up the tribunal, or to stir up military tensions in the region.
Therefore, more attacks are to be expected against Lebanon’s anti-Syrian majority leaders, while Hizballah and its pro-Damascus allies may stage more anti-government rallies in Beirut – any gambit to interfere with the international trial process. debkafile‘s intelligence sources add: President Assad scented the tribunal affair was about to go against him well in advance. After failing to lure Israel into peace talks as a diversion, he summoned his top aides in mid-January and ordered them to organize a military crisis on Israel’s northern borders. The bomb-trap Israeli troops discovered and detonated on the Lebanese-Israeli border opposite Avivim on February 5 was but the first such step.

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