Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri - AP
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri Photo by AP
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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said on Tuesday that Lebanon will ask the United Nations to halt the probe of an international tribunal into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper a-Diar reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, Hariri said on Tuesday that he intends on giving up on the findings of the tribunal "for the interests of the country."

Hariri was quoted as saying that the Lebanese government will turn to the UN to "work to stop the activities of the tribunal and to cancel the work protocol between the government and the tribunal."

Moreover, the newspaper quoted Hariri as saying that he will stand by Hezbollah if the group is found guilty by the tribunal, and that Lebanon will not support any of the tribunal's further activities.

"I have already sacrificed a lot, and I cannot sacrifice more," Hariri said.

The immediate significance of the declaration is the Lebanese government's decision to stop funding the international tribunal, and the calming of tensions between the government and Hezbollah.

The Netherlands-based tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of Rafik Hariri in a massive Beirut truck bombing is expected to issue its first indictments as soon as this month.

The court has kept silent on possible suspects, but several foreign media reports have said the court has evidence that members of Hezbollah, the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Shiite militant group, were behind the assassination. That has raised fears of more violence in the fractured country.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has also said he expects members of his group to be indicted, but has accused the court of bias.

The group has fiercely denied any role in the killing, and Nasrallah has said the group will cut off the hand of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members.

The group controls a military force more powerful than the national army and has broad political influence, including as part of the fragile governing coalition.

Speculation and tension over the tribunal have paralyzed the country. The Cabinet has not met since Nov. 10 and a national dialogue committee working for a defense strategy that could eventually integrate Hezbollah's weapons into the Lebanese regular armed forces has not met since last month when Hezbollah and its allies boycotted the talks.