Qatari PM on surprise visit to Lebanon

BEIRUT — Qatar’s prime minister flew to Beirut on a surprise visit Monday in a bid to contain rising tensions in Lebanon, hours before the country’s president was due to leave for Doha, the president’s office said.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 22 Nov 2010, 8:47 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani met President Michel Sleiman, who left for Qatar on a two-day visit immediately after their talks, a statement from Sleiman’s office said.

Sheikh Hamad was also expected to meet Prime Minister Saad Hariri and parliament speaker Nabih Berri during his visit, which coincided with Lebanon’s independence day, a diplomatic source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The source said the visit was “directly linked to the political crisis in Lebanon,” in the light of a government deadlock over alleged false testimonies in a UN-backed investigation into the assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

Tensions have been rising over the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, tasked with probing the murder of the current prime minister’s father, a Sunni Muslim.

The Netherlands-based tribunal is reportedly poised to indict high-ranking members of Lebanon’s Shiite militant movement Hezbollah in connection with the February 14, 2005 bombing which killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut.

Hezbollah has launched an increasingly heated campaign against the tribunal and has called for a government vote on a local inquiry into what it alleges was false testimony that misled investigators.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has slammed the court as a US-Israeli ploy to “guillotine” his movement and warned he would “cut off the hand” of anyone who tried to arrest members of his powerful party.

But Saad Hariri has vowed to see the investigation through.

Analysts warn the growing crisis could lead to a repeat of the crisis of May 2008, when an 18-month political deadlock culminated in a week of deadly gunfights between Hariri supporters and those of Hezbollah.

Qatar played a key role in ending the 2008 crisis, brokering a deal for the formation of a national unity government in which Hezbollah and its allies were granted veto powers over major decisions.

Doha was also a key donor of reconstruction aid for southern Lebanon after Israel’s devastating war with Hezbollah in 2006.

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