Bashar Assad sent a firm message to the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Syrian president warned that any ruling that would implicate Hezbollah may destabilize Lebanon. He said that his country would stand by the Shiite organization in any case, and added that Syria considers any blow to Hezbollah a line that should not be crossed.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah plans to leave for a secret visit in Damascus in the coming days, to discuss with the Syrian president the outcome of his meetings with Saudi King Abdullah.
Lebanese daily al-Akhbar reported that Assad said the international tribunal's work should come to an end. According to the report, the Syrian president feels the tribunal's investigation has become "a heavy diplomatic burden on Lebanon and its stability. Syria's experience with the tribunal so far indicates that there are no encouraging bodies to support the continuation of the tribunal's work or prevent its politicization."
It was also reported that Assad told the Saudi King the international tribunal has already nearly brought destruction on Lebanon and the region in the past. "Today, this attempt is being repeated with Hezbollah, which is being accused of assassinating Rafik Hariri. This mean Lebanon may once again be subject to destruction, and therefore, clear outlines should be determined to put this matter to rest."
'Search for real killer'The Syrian president reportedly stressed to his Saudi guest that he supports Hezbollah's stance. "The resistance in Lebanon will not be satisfied with the international tribunal, since the tribunal will accuse it of the assassination. If there is insistence to move forward with the international tribunal, the resistance will rise against it, since it strives to harm it. We consider the resistance a red line and we will let no harm come to it," he said.
Regarding Hezbollah, the Syrian president said, "It will not agree to the principle decision to implicate it and will not accept any such agreements. The international tribunal must seek the real killer."
According to the report, the Saudi king mainly listened to Assad and did not express any objection or reservations to what he heard. King Abdullah is a patron of Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri's son. The paper reported that the two leaders tried to find a solution to the matter, in a way that would prevent an explosion in Lebanon, particularly after the Syrian president stressed that Hezbollah "will not remain silent if it is accused by the tribunal, and will do everything in its power to rise against it."
It remained unclear what the two leaders agreed on, but on Friday they both traveled to Lebanon and met with President Michel Suleiman. The Saudi king later met with Hariri in private, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Mualem met with Hezbollah representatives and briefed them on the talks. At the end of the visit it was agreed that a Hezbollah representative will soon be deployed to Damascus to meet with Assad and learn of the outcome of the talks in Syria and Beirut and the future outlines for the solutions discussed by the parties.
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