Jumblatt reconciles with Syria as Hariri probe approaches Hizbullah

Damascus–Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt on Wednesday, the official Syrian news agency said, sealing reconciliation with one of his fiercest former critics in Lebanon.

Jumblatt had turned fiercely anti-Syrian after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri and criticised Assad as responsible for the killing.

But he has since said good ties with Syria were crucial to prevent Lebanon from descending into chaos and to preserve its Druze minority.

Syria denies any role in the Hariri killing, which is being investigated by a special tribunal set up by the United Nations in 2006.

On Wednesday Lebanese Shia militant faction Hizbullah was preparing a public relations onslaught amid fears that investigators will accuse it of playing a role in the killing.

Hizbullah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was due night to give a rare television interview on Wednesday to the group satellite station Al-Manar, in which he is expected to deny any part in the murder.

Hizbullah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, is seen across the Arab world as a resistance movement but is also a political party and holds two ministerial portfolios in the unity government of Said Hariri, son of the murdered premier.

Wiab Wahhab, a Lebanese minister, told a Kuwaiti newspaper on Tuesday that the UN probe had set its sights on Hizbullah from the outset and accused the United States of manipulating the investigation to implicate the group.

Another Lebanese newspaper, Al-Diar, reported that European diplomats had been taking soundings in Lebanon in to guage reactions among the country’s multiple ethnic factions in the event the UN accuses Hizbullah of the killing.

Over the weekend, Hizbullah officials were quoted as saying that they had no objection to the Hariri inquiry and were looking forward to proving the group’s innocence.

Back to top button