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Marshall Islands withdraw Lebanese general's UNESCO nomination

Jamil el-Sayed is suspected of involvement in the 2005 murder of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri

Published: Updated:

The Marshall Islands have withdrawn their nomination of a former Lebanese army general as their ambassador to UNESCO, a well-placed diplomatic source told AFP on Wednesday.

The general, Jamil El Sayed, spent four years in prison on suspicion of involvement in the 2005 murder of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. He denies any involvement and claims to have been subjected to arbitrary detention.

The Marshall Islands' move to nominate him to UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural arm, was revealed by French daily Le Figaro, which noted that acquiring diplomatic immunity could enable el-Sayed to avoid potential prosecution by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, an international U.N.-backed criminal tribunal looking into Hariri's murder.

The former premier was killed in a Beirut bomb attack which also claimed the lives of 22 others and left 226 people injured.

The attack was initially blamed on Lebanese officers suspected of being close to Syria but the Special Tribunal has since indicted four members of Hezbollah and begun to try them in their absence.

The diplomatic source said both UNESCO and France, as the organization’s host country, had been informed that el-Sayed would not be coming to Paris to represent the Marshalls.

The Marshall Islands are a former U.S. territory of around 70,000 residents in the Pacific Ocean.