Thu, Dec 04, 2008 - Page 6 News List

UN probe looks at more suspects in Hariri killing

AP , UNITED NATIONS

A special commission investigating the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri reported on Tuesday it had uncovered fresh evidence that could lead to more suspects in the three-year-old assassination case.

Hariri’s killing in February 2005 led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a nearly 30-year presence.

“The commission reports that it has acquired new information that may allow it to link additional individuals to the network that carried out the assassination,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote the Security Council.

The commission, according to its report submitted by Ban to the 15-nation council, did not specify what the evidence was but says it now wants its mandate extended through February to continue its investigation.

Ban also said he expected the international tribunal that would prosecute suspects in the assassination to begin operating on March 1.

An independent team of investigators headed by Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare has been helping Lebanese authorities investigate 20 other bombings and assassinations in Lebanon since October 2004, and there are “links between those cases and the Hariri case,” Ban said.

It is the 11th report the commission has made on Hariri since he was killed. Hariri, a wealthy businessman who said Syria shouldn’t meddle in Lebanese affairs, died in a suicide truck bombing that also killed 22 others on Beirut’s coast.

Nobody has been charged, though four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for three years for alleged involvement in the murders.

The first UN chief investigator, Germany’s Detlev Mehlis, has said the plot’s complexity suggested that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services had a role. Syria has denied involvement, but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence.

Bellemare’s team noted in its latest report that Syria “has provided generally satisfactory cooperation.”

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