June 10, 2006

UN says “considerable progress” in Hariri inquiry

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. inquiry into the
killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri
reported on Saturday "considerable progress" in its work but
did not set out new findings on who was behind the crime.

The report by the commission led by Belgian prosecutor
Serge Brammertz said Syrian cooperation, which previously had
been faulted by investigators, was now "generally
satisfactory," but it added continued cooperation "remains

The commission, in its fourth progress report to the U.N.
Security Council, also said it supported a request by the
Lebanese government that the inquiry be extended for up to one
more year.

Hariri, an outspoken critic of Syria's decades-long
domination of Lebanon, was killed by a huge bomb in broad
daylight as his motorcade traveled along a Beirut street on
February 14, 2005.

The attack took place after he accused Syria of meddling in
internal Lebanese politics. Mass street protests followed and
Lebanese opposition politicians blamed Damascus for his death.

Syria, which dominated Lebanon for three decades, denied
any involvement in the killing but agreed shortly afterward to
withdraw its troops from Lebanon under international pressure.

The Security Council ordered an outside inquiry into the
murder after a U.N. fact-finding mission concluded Lebanon
could not conduct a credible probe on its own.

Concerning Hariri's killing, the commission said the
investigation's "fundamental building blocks," including the
explosion, the carrier of the explosive device and its means of
delivery were "largely understood and provide the basis for
investigative progress with regard to those who perpetrated the

Only additional investigation would "lead to the
strengthening or exclusion of some of the existing case
hypotheses," the report added.

The Brammertz commission is also looking into 14 other bomb
attacks in Lebanon to determine whether they were linked to the
Hariri assassination. Its report said the cases "can be linked
in a number of different ways," but there was as yet
insufficient evidence to allow the perpetrators to be
identified and linked.