Hezbollah Official Hints at Group's Involvement in Hariri Murder

Amid rising political tensions and fears of civil war, MP Walid Sakaria says: Even if Hezbollah did kill former PM, we must not let it destroy Lebanon.

A senior Hezbollah official on Wednesday hinted at the militant group's involvement in the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the first indication of the sort expressed by a member of the organization.

"Even if the organization did murder Hariri, that's no reason to destroy Lebanon," the London-based daily A-Sharq al-Awsat quoted Lebanese MP Walid Sakaria as saying.

Rafik Hariri and Nasrallah - Haaretz archive

Political tensions have mounted in Lebanon as an international tribunal investigating the assassination prepares to release its findings. An investigation by the Canadian broadcaster CBC released Sunday found Hezbollah to have been directly involved in the assassination and some of its members are likely to be indicted.

The militant Shiite group has said it will not accept any accusation against any of its members, and warned of the repercussions of such an outcome.

The CBC report, which was based on United Nations evidence, named one of the suspects fingered by the UN commission investigating the murder: Wissam Hassan, today Lebanon's intelligence chief, who at the time was Hariri's chief of protocol.

The documents obtained by CBC indicate that Hassan has very close ties with senior Hezbollah officials, including Hussein Khalil, one of Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah's top aides.

The report said the UN probe had evidence pointing to Hezbollah's involvement as early as 2006, but initially failed to pursue it. This evidence was supplied by a Lebanese police officer, Capt. Wissam Eid, who was himself assassinated in 2008.

The findings and the imminent release of the UN report have sparked fears of a renewed civil war in Lebanon.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Beirut on Wednesday for a two-day visit that would include talks on the tense political situation in Lebanon, in an effort to keep the row from spiraling out of control.

Erdogan is to meet Lebanese government officials and lawmakers from Hezbollah, according to a government source.

The Turkish premier, in remarks published Wednesday in the Lebanese daily As Safir, said his country would not allow Lebanon to deteriorate into a civil war.

Erdogan said that Turkey would "do the necessary to fight signs of a civil war in Lebanon."

"Now is the time for unity in Lebanon," he said.