Peace award for slain Lebanese premier

Murdered former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will be awarded this year’s Tipperary International Peace Award at a ceremony in Co Tipperary on Friday, it emerged today.

Murdered former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will be awarded this year’s Tipperary International Peace Award at a ceremony in Co Tipperary on Friday, it emerged today.

Mr Hariri died in February last year when his motorcade was blown up by a massive explosion in central Beirut. A United Nations report later blamed Syrian security services for the atrocity.

An as yet unconfirmed close family member will accept the award on Mr Hariri’s behalf at the Tipperary International Festival of Peace in the Glen of Aherlow on Friday afternoon.

This year’s three-day Festival of Peace will be themed around Ireland’s role in UN peacekeeping duties in Lebanon.

Mr Hairi led five cabinets while head of government from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation in October 2004.

Festival spokesman Martin Quinn said: “Mr Hariri was instrumental in the implementation of a road map towards peace in Lebanon, culminating in the signing of the Taef Peace Accord which ended years of war and division and sparked the rejuvenation of the Middle East country.”

Previous Tipperary Peace Award winners include former South African President Nelson Mandela, the late Senator Gordon Wilson, Senator George Mitchell, Live-Aid organiser Bob Geldof, former US president Bill Clinton and murdered Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan last year.

The festival will host a discussion forum looking at the role played by the Irish defence forces in peacekeeping in Lebanon, and on the legacy of Hariri.

Guest speakers include Opposition defence spokesman and former UN peacekeeper Billy Timmins, UN peacekeeping expert Col Michael Shannon and defence analyst Declan Power.

Defence forces veterans will also parade through Tipperary Town on Saturday and lay a wreath and plant a tree in memory of the Irish soldiers who lost their lives while on peacekeeping duties in Lebanon.

The Tipperary International Song of Peace Grand Final, which includes 10 songs from Ireland, England, Scotland and US, will take place in the local Excel Centre.

The festival will conclude with an ecumenical service in St Mary’s Church in Tipperary Town on Sunday morning, during which the winning song will be performed.

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