The Marshall Islands which are located in the northern Pacific Ocean have withdrawn the nomination of former Lebanese Security chief Maj. Gen. Jamil el-Sayyed as their ambassador to UNESCO, a well-placed diplomatic source told AFP on Wednesday.
Sayyed was detained in 2005 along with 3 other Lebanese officers for several years in connection with the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri . He was released four years later in 2009 for lack of sufficient evidence on condition he could be detained again once enough evidence becomes available.
The Marshall Islands’ move to nominate him to UNESCO, the UN’s cultural arm, was revealed by French daily Le Figaro, which noted that acquiring diplomatic immunity could enable El Sayyed to avoid potential prosecution by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon ( STL) , an international UN-backed criminal tribunal looking into Hariri’s murder.
Hariri was killed in a Beirut bomb attack which also claimed the lives of 22 others and left 226 people injured. His assassination led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year of military presence
The attack was initially blamed on the four Lebanese officers suspected of being close to Syria but the Special Tribunal has since indicted five members of Hezbollah and begun to try them near The Hague in their absence last month.
The diplomatic source told AFP that both UNESCO and France, as the organization’s host country, had been informed that El Sayed would not be coming to Paris to represent the Marshalls.
Politically The Marshall Islands ( Population 68,480) is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, funding grants, and access to social services. Having few natural resources, the islands’ wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture, with a large percentage of the islands’ gross domestic product coming from United States aid.
When Sayyed’s nomination was announced there was speculation that France would not let him have a visa and the US will have a say on the issue , specially since he is well known to be anti-American and very closely associated with the Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group and the Syrian regime.
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