US warns Lebanon on Hariri tribunal funding
BEIRUT - The US ambassador to Lebanon on Monday warned of possible "serious consequences" if Lebanon fails to meet its obligations towards a UN-backed court investigating the murder of the country's ex-premier.
Ambassador Maura Connelly made the statement in a meeting with Christian leader Michel Aoun, whose Free Patriotic Movement is allied with the powerful militant group Hezbollah that has a key role in the Lebanese government.
"Ambassador Connelly told General Aoun that the US expects Lebanon to meet all of its international obligations, including Lebanon's obligation to cooperate with and fund the Special Tribunal for Lebanon," a statement issued by the embassy said.
"She expressed the United States' concern that a failure by Lebanon to meet its obligations to the tribunal could lead to serious consequences if Lebanon does not meet its international commitments," the statement added.
Hezbollah toppled the previous government headed by Saad Hariri over its refusal to cut ties with the tribunal, set up in the aftermath of the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, Rafiq Hariri.
The tribunal has indicted four Hezbollah operatives for the February 14, 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others in Beirut.
But the Shiite party and its allies, which dominate the new government, have dismissed the court as part of a US-Israeli conspiracy and have vowed to block any efforts by the Lebanese government to contribute its share to the tribunal's funding.
Beirut has yet to pay what it owes for the year 2011 and in 2010 transferred the funds without government approval.
Hariri's killing plunged Lebanon into a series of political crisis that brought the country close to civil war in 2008.