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Hariri tribunal launches legal case, prompting protests in Lebanon

The Hariri tribunal indictments submitted yesterday mark the first time that a legal case has been launched against suspects on a political assassination in Lebanon.

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Hezbollah sources warned in recent weeks of heightened measures by the group in response to the issuing of indictments. The pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Tuesday quoted an unnamed Hezbollah source as saying “the postindictment phase will not be like the preindictment phase at all.”

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Hezbollah's trial run for future protests

Lebanese troops fanned out in flash-point neighborhoods of Beirut on Tuesday morning shortly after the crowds had dispersed. Sources close to Hezbollah said the gatherings were intended to send a message and at the same time were a trial run for future potential action on the streets.

Mouin Merhebi, an anti-Hezbollah MP, accused the opposition of resorting to “armed mobs.”

But Wiam Wahhab, a pro-Syrian politician and ally of Hezbollah, urged the Lebanese security forces not to interfere with street protests against the tribunal.
“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon will never enter Lebanon,” he told Lebanon’s New TV channel.

Mediation from Syria, Qatar, and Turkey

The uptick in tensions comes as Lebanon’s regional neighbors continued to find a way to resolve the political crisis in Beirut following the collapse of the coalition government last week when all opposition ministers resigned.

Statutory consultations between President Michel Suleiman and the members of the 128-seat parliament to nominate a new prime minister were supposed to begin Monday. However, they were canceled to allow a chance for a regional mediation.

On Tuesday, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, and Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, visited Beirut to hold talks with Lebanese officials.

A day earlier, neighboring Syria hosted a summit in Damascus grouping the leaders of Syria, Qatar, and Turkey. The summit called for the resumption of a Saudi-Syrian dialogue to find a compromise between the opposing Lebanese factions.

It remains unclear, however, whether such a compromise can be found given the deepening divide between the Hezbollah-led opposition and supporters of Saad Hariri, the head of the caretaker government and son of the slain Rafik.

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