[JURIST] Syria [JURIST news archive] will take no part in the establishment of a UN tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] if the tribunal acts to undermine the country's sovereignty, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told members of the New People's Assembly [SANA report] Thursday. Assad has continually denied any allegations that Syria participated in the assassination [JURIST report]. He told parliament that "We have nothing directly to do with the court. Any cooperation requested from Syria that compromises national sovereignty is totally rejected." Reuters has more.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Al Arabiya television that the US may attempt to force the establishment of a UN tribunal [JURIST report] under Chapter VII of the UN Charter [text] to try suspects in the assassination. Last week, UN Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel [official profile] reported that he has been unable to break a deadlock [JURIST report] within the Lebanese government preventing approval of the international tribunal. Michel traveled to Lebanon [JURIST report] last month in an effort to revitalize the ratification process of an agreement [JURIST report] to establish the tribunal.
The agreement has been approved by the Lebanese cabinet, but Lebanon's pro-Syrian parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri has refused to convene parliament, preventing the ratification of the agreement. Michel said that he saw "no progress," despite the fact that both the government and opposition have expressed support, in principle, for the tribunal. Thus far, Michel has not confirmed any plans for the UN to establish a tribunal under Chapter VII.