Beirut (AP) - "The Truth" was the rallying cry for hundreds of thousands of angry Lebanese who took to the streets of Beirut five years ago demanding to know who was behind the assassination of their hero, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Their movement helped reshape
But now the quest to uncover and prosecute Hariri's killers threatens to tear the country apart.
The possibility that the U.N. tribunal investigating the murder could indict members of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah -- perhaps as soon as next month -- is fueling
Deep feuds between Western-backed parties and Hezbollah worsened this week, raising fears they could bring down the fragile unity government in which both serve, and which is led by the slain leader's son, Saad Hariri.
"The country has been drowning in a war of words," Prime Minister Hariri said this week. "The Lebanese are deeply anxious and some believe that we are on the edge of a renewed wave of destruction. This is not the image we want to portray to the world."
But Hariri also rejected demands from Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies that he push to shut down the Netherlands-based tribunal. If Hezbollah members are accused, many fear it could lead to violence between the heavily armed guerrilla force and Hariri's mainly Sunni allies.
The bombing that killed Rafik Hariri and 22 other people along
Suspicion fell on neighboring
But since then, the tack of the investigation appears to have changed. Four pro-Syrian generals arrested early on were released last year for lack of evidence. Though the tribunal has not yet named any individuals or countries as suspects, Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has announced that he expects members of his group to be indicted. He vows not to hand them over to be prosecuted.
In a stunning reversal this month, Hariri said it had been a mistake to blame
He said Hariri must be held accountable or "I will do it someday with my own hands."
The state prosecutor summoned him questioning, but he said he would not comply.
Over the weekend, Hezbollah sent a crew of gunmen to
Hariri's backers struck back, accusing al-Sayyed of trying to blackmail Hariri for $15 million in exchange for dropping the charges that Hariri was behind the false witnesses.
Pro-Syrian Christian politician Suleiman Franjieh said in a television interview late Thursday that if Hezbollah members are indicted "there will be war in
"The atmosphere is waiting for the spark," Franjieh said.
Some Lebanese are now saying the investigation may not be worth the chaos its findings might create.
"If the tribunal is going to lead to strife, then let's all agree on canceling it," said Walid Jumblatt, a political leader of the Druse sect who once was among the tribunal's leading supporters.
Wiam Wahhab, a pro-Syrian politician, warned on Hezbollah's TV station that it would take more than a decade for the tribunal to pore through all the evidence, putting
"Are we going to keep the country in mourning?" he asked. "What is needed today is for the tribunal to be brought down immediately in order for the country to relax."
But Hariri and his supporters insist the tribunal will go forward.
The disputes are intensifying a long-running power struggle between Hariri's supporters and Hezbollah that exploded into street violence in
Jamil K. Mroue, editor in chief of
"The country's politicians are creating the consequences of the indictment before the court takes any action," he wrote in an editorial. "Broad swaths of the public space are deteriorating over pure hearsay."