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UN chief confirms extension of the mandate of Hariri court

(Xinhua)

16:07, January 14, 2012

BEIRUT, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon confirmed Friday evening that the mandate of the divisive UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which expires at the end of February, will be extended.

Ban said at a news conference in Beirut that he would decide how long the mandate of the Netherlands-based court, probing the 2005 assassination of Lebanese former Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, will be extended.

"How long the mandate will be extended will be (decided) in consultation with the Lebanese government and the Security Council, " he told reporters.

Under the protocol agreement establishing the court, the tribunal's three-year mandate, which began on March 1, 2009, may be renewed if the court has not completed its work.

In July, STL's outgoing Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare released an indictment against four men, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra, all of whom are members of Shiite armed group Hezbollah.

Ban arrived in Beirut Friday and met with the country's top officials.

U.N. chief told reporters that weapons outside the control of the Lebanese state were "not acceptable" and expressed deep concerns over the growing military capabilities of Hezbollah.

"I am deeply concerned about the military capabilities of Hezbollah and also concerned about the lack of progress in disarmament," he said.

"Arms outside the authority of the state are not acceptable," he added.

Earlier this week a Hezbollah official said the UN Secretary General was unwelcome in Lebanon.

Ban also highlighted the need to preserve the safety of all UN personnel in Lebanon, saying President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati vowed to take necessary measures to achieve that purpose.

In 2011, three roadside bombs targeted United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrols in south Lebanon, wounding six Italian peacekeepers in May, five French in July and another five French soldiers and a Lebanese civilian in December. Investigations into the three blasts have yet to bear fruit.

"Thousands of UN agency staff are here and working towards progress throughout Lebanon and beyond," said Ban. "I am grateful for all UN staff; their safety and security is critically important."

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