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Lebanese PM says Lebanon will fund Hariri tribunal
Averting crisis at home, Lebanese PM says Lebanon will fund Netherlands-based Hariri tribunal
By The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) ' Lebanon's prime minister said Wednesday his country will pay its share of funds for a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of a Lebanese statesman, averting a political crisis in the deeply divided country at a critical time in the Middle East.

Najib Mikati said the transfer of Lebanon's $36 million share in the required funding for the Netherlands-based court was made Wednesday.

"It is a decision that reflects Lebanon's commitment to its international obligations and the principles of justice," he told reporters.

The U.N. investigation into the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the degree to which the Lebanese authorities should cooperate with it, has become one of the most divisive issues in Lebanese politics in recent years.

Hariri was killed by a suicide truck bomb on Feb. 14, 2005, in one of the most dramatic political assassinations in the Middle East. A billionaire businessman, he was at the time Lebanon's most prominent politician.

The court has indicted four members of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group which, along with its allies, holds a majority in Cabinet. Hezbollah strongly denies the accusations and refuses to fund the court.

It was not immediately clear how Mikati secured the funding, and he did not address the issue at his news conference. Earlier, he had threatened to step down if the Cabinet refused to fund the tribunal at a session scheduled for Wednesday.

The Cabinet session was postponed ' suggesting politicians had reached an agreement in which funding for the court would be secured through sources other than the Cabinet.

Mikati portrayed the funding as a bold and necessary step to protect Lebanon from outside pressures. Western countries have hinted at possible sanctions if Lebanon fails to cooperate.

He said the decision was also based on his strong belief in the principles of justice.

"It is for these reasons that I transferred this morning Lebanon's share for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon," Mikati said.

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