March 14, 2006

UN probe of Hariri killing reports progress

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. inquiry into the
assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri
reported progress on Tuesday in identifying how the killing was
carried out and said it believes the plotters were experienced
in terrorism.

But the investigative commission's latest report to the
U.N. Security Council said its inquiry was in a particularly
delicate stage and it could not yet name the perpetrators, even
though an earlier report had tied the crime to Syrian security
officials and their Lebanese counterparts.

"The commission is closer to a more complete understanding
of how the preparatory work was undertaken, how those who
participated on the day performed their respective tasks, what
those tasks were before, during and after the attack and of the
overall modus operandi employed by the perpetrators for the
attack," the commission said.

It referred to the killing as a highly complex "terrorist
operation" and said those involved in carrying it out appeared
to be "very 'professional' in their approach, as they planned
to a high percentage likelihood for success, and conducted the
operation with high standards of individual and collective

"It must be assumed that at least some of those involved
were likely experienced in this type of terrorist activity," it

The inquiry, led since January by Belgian prosecutor Serge
Brammertz, said cooperation with Syria had improved in the past
three months. Earlier commission reports, issued by the probe's
previous leader, German Detlev Mehlis, had faulted Damascus for
inadequate cooperation.

It said investigators would meet with Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad and Vice President Farouq al-Shara in April in
connection with Hariri's February 14, 2005, assassination.

Assad had previously indicated he would refuse to be
interviewed by investigators. An October commission report had
accused al-Shara, then Syria's foreign minister, of providing
the commission with "false information" in a letter.