Mikati , Safadi trade barbs over STL payment


tribunal  STL defCaretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati denied on Sunday that his office had referred to the audit bureau a decree on the payment of Lebanon’s share Lebanon’s share of funding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), , drawing accusations and counter accusations between him and the finance ministry.

In a statement issued by his press office on Sunday morning, Mikati said his office had referred the decree to the finance ministry to ask for the transfer of Lebanon’s share to the tribunal. But a ministry official referred it instead to the audit bureau.

Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi should have followed up the procedure through the administrative units of his ministry, Mikati’s statement said.

The statement came after Safadi , a close ally o Mikati confirmed to al-Mustaqbal daily published on Sunday that the decree for the payment of Lebanon’s share had been issued after President Michel Suleiman, Mikati and himself signed it.

But he expressed surprise at Miqati’s alleged transfer of the decree to the audit bureau.

He added that the finance ministry would make the payment immediately after the decree is sent back to the ministry.

However, the caretaker premier said Safadi’s statement was “not accurate.”

The ministry issued a statement after Mikati’s denial, saying the signed decree was sent automatically by “the official in charge of the expenses at the premiership” to the audit bureau as required by law.

But Mikati snapped back in a second statement, saying the employee is “a staff member of the finance ministry and is administratively linked to the finance minister.”

“The employee is in charge of approving the expenses of all public administrative institutions” and not just the premiership, he added.

Lebanon is obligated to pay 49 percent of the STL’s budget. Since it is usually not included in the state budget because of objection by Hezbollah every year since Mikati formed his cabinet the STL payment becomes a big deal.

Mikati has been arranging the payments through the Central Bank governor Riad Salameh who usually transfers the funds on behalf of the Lebanese government through the High Commission for Relief. Lebanon’s annual share is about $ 32 million

The UN-backed Special Tribunal For Lebanon is set to try the killers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in January 2014.
Suspects in hariri murder
Trial is scheduled to begin on January 16  for  the 5 Hezbollah members accused of being behind Hariri’s assassination

In June 2011 the STL indicted four Hezbollah members—Mustafa Badreddine, 52, Salim Ayyash, 49, Hussein Oneissi, 39, and Assad Sabra, 36—for Hariri’s murder and in October 2013 it indicted 5th Hezbollah member Hassan Merhi.