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Terrorism & Security

Rafik Hariri: Lebanon on edge as UN warns against indictment speculation

Rafik Hariri assassination investigation and pending indictment by UN, prompts Hezbollah demonstration. The UN tribunal, looking into the death of former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, attempted to diffuse tension in Beirut Tuesday.

By Correspondent / January 18, 2011

Lebanese soldiers stand guard in downtown in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 18. Hezbollah supporters gathered in the streets of Beirut early Tuesday after a UN tribunal filed Hariri indictments, prompting several schools to close.

Grace Kassab/AP

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The UN tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri warned Tuesday against making assumptions about the sealed indictment it filed Monday – even as supporters of Hezbollah, expected by many to be named in the indictment, made a show of force in Lebanon's capital, Beirut.

Reuters reported Tuesday that several schools were closed, security forces blocked off a main road to government offices in Beirut, and Beirut residents reported groups of Hezbollah supporters gathering around the city in the early morning. The activity heightened concerns about a repeat of events in May 2008, when armed Hezbollah supporters took over parts of the city. The violence left dozens dead.

While Tuesday ended peacefully, albeit tensely, in Beirut, it will be weeks before the contents of the indictment – including who is accused – are made public. In addition, several other complications and obstacles will remain, including the tribunal's lack of a police force and reliance on Lebanese authorities to arrest anyone in Lebanon who is accused, the AP reported.

Hezbollah, whose members are expected to be named in the indictment, withdrew from the Lebanese government last week, causing it to collapse, after the Lebanese prime minister, Hariri's son Saad, refused to call an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss withdrawing the government's support for the tribunal. The government's collapse has left Lebanon without any clear political leadership and has sparked worries about a return to armed conflict in the country.

But Agence France-Presse reports that on Tuesday the tribunal prosecutor warned against speculation about the indictment's contents.

"Any speculation about the contents of the indictment would be counter-productive," prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said in a video statement the day after submitting the indictment that has sparked a political crisis.

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