During the taping of a television talk show on Monday in Abu Dhabi , US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern over attempts to “destabilize” Lebanon amid tensions linked to the UN probe into the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
“I’m deeply worried about the efforts to destabilize Lebanon,” Clinton said when asked by an interviewer about the political crisis in Lebanon and concerns of war.
“I’ve also been working with the Saudis, and the French and the Egyptians, and others, to try to make sure we stabilize Lebanon and prevent any outside interest or anyone within Lebanon who is getting direction from outside interests from taking steps that will destabilize Lebanon and perhaps provoke conflict.”
“We should do everything we can to make sure those warnings are not accurate,” Clinton said, when asked to comment on warnings of a regional conflict.
Clinton met separately on Friday in New York with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz to discuss the growing tensions in Lebanon.
During the flight from New York to Abu Dhabi she was asked about her meeting with Hariri and here is what she was quoted as saying:
“I had a – what I thought of a substantive and reassuring meeting with Prime Minister Hariri. I was impressed by his resolve and his understanding of the very difficult situation in which his country finds itself. We obviously, as you know, have been constant in our commitment to the tribunal and to the fundamental principle that Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence must be respected, and that is why we’re working hard with Saudi Arabia, France, and Egypt to form a strong foundation of support for Lebanon and, in particular, Prime Minister Hariri. So I thought it was a very positive discussion.”
Tensions in Lebanon have been simmering for months as it has become increasingly apparent the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon STL) is leaning toward charging Hezbollah , the Shiite Muslim group with killing Mr. Hariri on Valentine’s Day 2005.
The massive, 1,000 kilogram, car bomb that killed Mr. Hariri as he traveled along Beirut’s fashionable seaside Corniche, left a crater 10 meters deep, knocked down several buildings and killed 21 other people, in addition to killing the billionaire tycoon who had rebuilt war-shattered Beirut.
Lebanese politicians fear any indictment of Hezbollah members for the killing could lead to a situation where the group might militarily seize large parts of Lebanon, just it they did in May 2008, when it briefly grabbed control of the western part of Beirut and tried, but failed, to occupy the Druze stronghold of Mt. Lebanon.
For months now, rumors have hinted UN investigators have uncovered evidence a Hezbollah hit-squad carried out the killing.
Hezbollah’s leaders have denied the charge.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also warned all Lebanese last November not to assist UN investigators, saying to do so would be tantamount to an attack on his movement.
Nasrallah vowed to “cut off the hand” of anyone who tried to arrest a Hezbollah fighter.