Hezbollah: German report on Hariri death an ‘Israeli provocation’

Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said Monday night the report by the German weekly Der Spiegel, which claimed Hezbollah was behind the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was an ‘Israeli provocation’ against Shiites, Al-Manar TV reported.

"The report is very, very dangerous," and the accusation is an "act of Israeli provocation against the Shiites," said Nasrallah, according to Xinhua news agency.


Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine reported on Saturday that the UN commission probing the Hariri murder had new evidence that Hezbollah "planned and executed" the Beirut car bombing on February 14, 2005.


The attack killed Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, and 22 other people.


"The report is clearly aimed at sowing discord between the country's Sunnis and Shiites," Narsallah said. "The Israelis and the Americans wonder how to scuttle the (Lebanese) elections and influence its outcome, Der Spiegel report was the answer."


The Hezbollah chief made the remarks in a ceremony to mark the ninth anniversary of Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon after 22 years.


Hezbollah had earlier called the report "pure fabrication" and a bid to influence the election and deflect attention from a crackdown on alleged Israeli spy networks.


The report came as Lebanon is preparing to hold general elections on June 7. The election will determine who will rule the country for the coming four years. Currently there is a fierce competition between the Western-backed ruling coalition and the Hezbollah-led alliance.


Russia calls report 'provocative'


On Monday, Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also denounced the report by the German magazine as "provocative".


"We consider what was published in Der Spiegel an attempt to politicize matters and we consider all such attempts provocative," Lavrov said after meetings with President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliament speaker Nabih Berri.


Lavrov, who visited Hariri's grave in Beirut before leaving Lebanon, told reporters that Moscow backed The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) as long as its work was objective.


"We regard the work of the STL highly as long as it remains professional, unbiased and not politicized," Lavrov said as carried by the AFP news agency.


The Russian minister added he did not believe the tribunal would condone attempts to destabilize the situation in Lebanon.


Meanwhile, the German embassy in Beirut released a statement saying that Berlin has no information regarding the report. The embassy said Germany supports "independence" of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.


Analyst say claim that Hezbollah killed Hariri 'dangerous'


Analysts believe that the report by the German magazine is a dangerous claim which could spark civil strife as Lebanon prepares to hold crunch elections.


"If the Special Tribunal for Lebanon comes out and confirms the report, we could be facing an all-out civil war," Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre, told AFP of the UN-backed probe into the murder.


"On the other hand, it could be just a report in a newspaper."


"We don't know where they are getting the story from," a spokeswoman for the prosecutor at The Hague-based tribunal said.


"The office of the prosecutor doesn't comment on any issues related to operational aspects of the investigation."


Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, an expert on Hezbollah, said although the majority in Lebanon has so far refrained from capitalizing on the allegations, the tables could turn at any moment.


"I would say the very dangerous implications it could have had have fizzled out, particularly as no officials of the majority camp have used it," she said. "But if (the majority) uses the report against Hezbollah, then of course we're going to see instability in Lebanon, and that's putting it mildly."


Last May, sectarian violence sparked by a spectacular power grab by Hezbollah in mainly Sunni parts of Beirut led to more than 110 deaths and took Lebanon close to another civil war.


Analysts questioned the timing of the Der Spiegel report, saying it was no coincidence it came before the elections and amid the espionage crackdown.


"The nature of the report is provocative, its timing is far from naive and, coupled with the Israeli reaction, it is a clear attempt to incite unrest," said Fadia Kiwan, head of political science at Beirut's Saint Joseph University.


"One word could set the streets on fire."


Israel on Sunday reacted to the report by urging the arrest of Nasrallah.


Der Spiegel said Hezbollah is implicated in Hariri's murder through the discovery of two linked mobile phone networks belonging to the group's "operational arm."


It said a secret unit of Lebanese security forces, led by intelligence expert Captain Wissam Eid, filtered out the numbers before Eid was himself murdered in January 2008.


A Hezbollah commando unit is also thought to be behind Eid's killing, Der Spiegel claimed in its report.


Saad-Ghorayeb called the reference to Eid and his unit a bid to sow discord between Hezbollah and state security services which have been cooperating on the spy rings.


Since January Lebanon has charged at least 18 suspects, including a retired general, with spying for Israel.


"There are so many powers that would want to implicate Hezbollah in this and tarnish its reputation before the election," Saad-Ghorayeb said. "But most people don't buy the report.





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