Lebanon Responds to Hariri Tribunal Indictment

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati predicted "there would be no strife in Lebanon" following Thursday's indictment of four senior Hezbollah members for the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

The U.N. Special Tribunal on Lebanon (STL) handed over the 183-page indictment and arrest warrants to State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza on Thursday.

Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told The Daily Star on Friday that security forces would arrest the four suspects.

"We will find their addresses, raid [their houses], and arrest them," Charbel said, noting they have a "30-day deadline" to take the men into custody.

According to The Daily Star, the indictment charged senior Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine with masterminding the attack, and Salim al-Ayyash, Hasan Oneissy and Asad Sabra with implementing the massive roadside bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on February 14, 2005.

Mughniyeh -- himself assassinated in 2008 -- is believed to have orchestrated a number of the terror group's major attacks, including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. base in Beirut that killed 241 marines, and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina that left 29 dead and more than 200 injured.

Hezbollah toppled Hariri's government in January when he refused to denounce the tribunal. The new government under Hezbollah-backed Mikati was formed two weeks ago, nearly five months later. The well-heeled Sunni businessman has close ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of the Lebanese-based terror group, has yet to respond to the announcement. Nasrallah has long denied responsibility for the assassination, at one time threatening to "cut off the hands" of anyone attempting to arrest "any of our jihadists."

Welcoming the Indictment

Former Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, the son of the slain premier, called the announcement an "historic breakthrough."

"The progress in the course of justice and the Special Tribunal is for all the Lebanese without any exception, and it should be a turning point in the history of fighting organized political crime in Lebanon and in the Arab world," Hariri said in a statement.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner also welcomed the indictment, calling it an "important step toward justice and ending impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon."

"The sealed indictments have been handed over," Toner said. "We're now going to look to see what the Lebanese government does next. We're looking for it to take action," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the world community to cooperate with the tribunal "in the execution of the indictment and arrest warrants."

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Tzippe Barrow

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