The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Wednesday to establish an international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Of the 15 members of the council, 10 voted in favor and five --Russia, China, Qatar, Indonesia and South Africa -- abstained.
The resolution slated a grace period until June 10 for the Lebanese parties to ratify an earlier agreement reached in November by the United Nations and the Lebanese government to establish the court. Otherwise, the resolution's provisions shall enter into force immediately.
The West-sponsored text stated that the location of the tribunal shall be determined in consultation with the Lebanese government and be subject to the conclusion of a headquarters agreement between the United Nations and the host country.
It decided that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "may accept or use voluntary contributions" from member states if contributions from the Lebanese government are not sufficient.
According to the document, the tribunal shall "commence functioning on a date" to be determined by the secretary-general in consultation with the Lebanese government, taking into account the progress of the work of the UN's independent probe into the assassination.
It also requested the UN chief, "in coordination, when appropriate, with the government of Lebanon, to undertake the steps and measures necessary to establish the special tribunal in a timely manner and to report to the council within 90 days."
The resolution invokes Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which deals with threats to international peace and security.
China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya told the council that China hopes for continued political and diplomatic efforts to assist the Lebanese to reach a consensus as soon as possible.
Only a tribunal supported by all Lebanese parties can be effective, Wang said.
"This is a move that will give rise to a series of political and legal problems, likely to add to the uncertainties embedded in the already turbulent political and security and situation in Lebanon, and will create a precedent of the Security Council interfering in the domestic affairs and legislative independence of a sovereign state," he added.
Qatar's UN ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said his country opposes the insistence of the sponsors to put the resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
"We are simply apprehensive that adopting this draft under Chapter 7 will not serve to bring stability to that country," Al-Nasser said.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin also voiced reservations to the draft's reference to Chapter 7, saying that council's move in essence constitutes "an encroachment upon the sovereignty of Lebanon."
Hariri, a famous anti-Syrian figure, was killed along with 22 others in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut in February 2005. Syria has denied any wrongdoing in the assassination.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora sent a letter to the UN secretary-general earlier this month asking the Security Council to impose such an international court in the face of blocking efforts by the parliament's minority.
The request, however, was followed immediately by a letter addressed to Ban by the country's president, Emile Lahoud, which warned that the council's imposition of the court would cause chaos in Lebanon.
(Xinhua News Agency May 31, 2007)