Lebanese cabinet postpones debate on “false witnesses” affair until after Eid

Sleiman’s proposal to refer issue to parliamentary committee rejected by opposition ministers

Saudi ambassador in Lebanon urges powers to seek appeasement, consultations

UNIFIL says Israel’s occupation of Ghajar village is violation of resolution 1701

The Lebanese cabinet postponed a debate on witnesses accused of misleading UN investigators probing the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, in a bid to avoid more tension in the country.

The Hezbollah-led opposition and its pro-Syrian allies have insisted on a vote inside the cabinet on the issue in order to hand it over to the nation's highest court.

The opposition, claim the "false witnesses" were paid by their rivals in the western-backed majority, headed by premier Saad Hariri, to feed information that will implicate Hezbollah and Syria in the killings of Hariri and at least 20 others. They say they want to investigate who allegedly paid witnesses to feed false information to UN Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

A government source said after the cabinet session that "a consensus has been reached on postponing a cabinet vote on the false witnesses issue to a later session after a lengthy and heated discussions between the opposition and majority ministers."

Hariri was killed in a massive bomb blast in 2005 at a seaside area of Beirut. Hariri's allies blamed Syria for the assassination, a charge Damascus still denies.

According to the government source, President Michel Suleiman proposed forming a parliamentary inquiry committee to look into the false witnesses issue, but the opposition rejected the proposal.

Hezbollah accused its pro-Western political rivals of protecting what it said were false witnesses.

"We denounce ... attempts to halt the process of uncovering who was behind these witnesses, who fabricated to destabilize Lebanon and harm Lebanon's relations with Syria," it said in a statement after a meeting of its parliamentary bloc.

Hezbollah has described the UN Tribunal for Lebanon of being an "Israeli project."

On the other hand, Hariri's allies have accused Hezbollah of trying to discredit and derail the tribunal, which is reportedly set to indict members of the Lebanese Shiite movement in connection with the assassination.

Hezbollah is part of a national unity government headed by Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah called last month on the Lebanese people and government to boycott the UN tribunal.

But Premier Hariri has vowed to back the tribunal until the truth behind his father's death is revealed despite pressures by the powerful Shiite group.

Observers feared that the standoff inside the cabinet could lead to the collapse of the government, paralyzing the political institutions in the country and repeating the 18-month political deadlock that led in May 2008 to deadly clashes between Hariri's allies and Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awwad Asiri stressed that "it is out of the question" for the Kingdom to interfere in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, saying that only the U.N. Security Council can control the matter.

He revealed to the daily Asharq al-Awsat that he had proposed to Hezbollah the need to form a Lebanese committee of opposition and majority forces aimed at studying the possible negative or positive outcomes of the STL and placing the necessary precautionary measures to contain the situation.

The ambassador noted however that the Lebanese parties are responsible enough not to allow the situation in the country to deteriorate after the announcement of the indictment.

Furthermore, Asiri denied reports of Saudi Arabia's intention to abort the tribunal, urging the media to only take into consideration reports by Saudi officials and official media outlets.

He reiterated Saudi King Abdullah's stand over the STL when he visited Lebanon during which urged the Lebanese to act reasonably, adopt dialogue, and stand united.

On the other hand, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said that Israel was required to withdraw from the northern section of the Lebanese village of Ghajar as stipulated by the UN Security Council resolution.

Resolution 1701 stipulates that Israel should pull out from the northern section of the village of Ghajar and adjacent areas located north of the border Blue Line, UNIFIL's political and civil affairs advisor Milos Strugar said in a statement.

UNIFIL has discussed the pullout from Ghajar with both Lebanon and Israel to facilitate the process, Strugar said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the military will pull out from the northern part of the occupied village of Ghajar, adding that his government was ready to execute a unilateral pull out from Ghajar in coordination with UNIFIL.

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti, meanwhile, said Israel's occupation of the northern section of Ghajar was a clear violation of Resolution 1701.

UN Resolution 1701, which put an end to Lebanon's 2006 war with Israel, requires Israel to cease all operations north of the border and withdraw from the disputed village.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to make a public announcement on the withdrawal from Ghajar following talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York, Israeli media reported over the weekend.

The northern part of the village of Ghajar was re-occupied by Israeli forces during the 2006 summer war after it vacated the area during its withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000.