Obama raises Lebanon stakes
The tension in Lebanon remained the top priority for regional players yesterday a day after a report released by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) claimed preliminary evidence in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri linked Hezbollah members to the crime.
The CBC report claims Colonel Wissam Al Hassan, who now serves as chief of Lebanon's intelligence, was linked to the plot.
US President Barack Obama was quick to back the UN tribunal investigating the assassination saying he was committed to keeping Lebanon free of "terrorism" — a thinly veiled reference to the Lebanese resistance group backed by Iran.
"I am committed to doing everything I can to support Lebanon and ensure it remains free from foreign interference, terrorism, and war," Obama said in a written statement.
Former Saudi intelligence Chief Turki Al Faisal also lashed out at Iran accusing its leaders of "brinkmanship". He said Iranian proxies have been firmly placed in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Palestine.
Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri has, however, dismissed the CBC report saying Al Hassan enjoyed his "full trust". Al Hassan was in charge of Rafik Hariri's security on the day of the assassination.
"We generally do not comment on anything that is not formally released by the international tribunal or one of its offices but it is my personal opinion that media leaks do not serve the course of justice," he said.
The statements come as Lebanese President Michel Sulaiman visited Qatar following a visit by Qatari Prime Minister Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr Al Thani to Beirut on Monday.
Shaikh Hamad discussed recent developments with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Hariri, but no statements were released.
Hariri will make his first visit to Iran on Saturday in a move that will undoubtedly make the US and Israel uneasy.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to "cut off the hand" of anyone who tried to arrest any of the group's members over the assassination plot.
Hariri is struggling to hold together his ruling coalition and sources say he could postpone or dismiss the tribunal's indictments altogether in exchange for Hezbollah's backing of his government.