UN fact-finding team begins probe into late Prime Minister's murder

UN team due in Lebanon to probe Hariri killing

Straw places suspicion on Syria

Lebanon launches judicial probe into Hariri murder

Lebanon to cooperate with UN in Hariri death inquiry by Nayla Razzouk

Lebanon asks Switzerland for explosive experts in Hariri assassination probe

Lebanon hunts suspects after TNT traces found on Australia-bound plane

Syria not involved in Hariri murder, not afraid of probe: ambassador

Hariri killer bomb was in tunnel: opposition

Lebanon to seek Swiss expert help to probe Hariri murder

Lebanon security storm Hariri bomb claimer's home

Lebanon's bloody history of political assassinations

Lebanon says Hariri probably killed by suicide car bomb


UN fact-finding team begins probe into late Prime Minister's murder Future Tv news 26/02/05

Switzerland has decided not to collaborate with a Lebanese investigation into the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, but said it was willing to put specialists at the service of the UN in tracking the killers. The Lebanese judiciary decided to seek the help of Swiss forensic specialists to probe the murder, after the authorities said that expertise from a "neutral country" could be brought in. The foreign ministry said any help should be given in the framework of the UN, and was willing to provide experts if the world organization requested them.

A United Nations fact-finding team began inquiries into the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, a killing the opposition blamed on Syria. Hariri's death inflamed a row over the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon and intensified international pressure on Damascus to end its dominating role. The U.N. Security Council, angered by the Feb. 14 bombing that killed Hariri and 17 others, had asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to report urgently on "the circumstances, causes and consequences of the assassination". Lebanon's Syrian-backed government rejected calls for an international investigation into the killing, but has pledged to cooperate with the U.N. mission which is to meet officials and visit the bomb site, but does not have investigative powers. The head of the three-member U.N. team, Irish Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, told reporters in Beirut he promised "absolute impartiality and professionalism". Annan told Arab satellite television Al Arabiya he hoped Fitzgerald would be able to report back before he presents a report to the Security Council on Syrian troop withdrawal. Interior Minister Suleiman Frangieh pledged cooperation while insisting that the Irish officers were "not investigators, but are here to give their opinion." Justice Minister Adnan Addum said the team was in Lebanon "to collect information... and they are working within the limits of their prerogatives... within the scope of Lebanese sovereignty." The Lebanese authorities, which have released few details, have launched their own investigation and sought Swiss expertise in DNA testing and explosives. Lebanon's opposition figures blame Syria and its allies in Lebanon for the killing of Hariri. Syria and the government deny the charges and have pointed blame at Israel. Security chief Major General Jameel al-Sayed vowed to sue the editor of a Kuwaiti newspaper which accused him and two Syrian intelligence officials of plotting and carrying out the murder. Peter FitzGerald, deputy commissioner of the Irish police, said the team will work with "absolute impartiality and professionally." FitzGerald said the team will draw up a report within four weeks for UN chief Kofi Annan to present to the Security Council.

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UN team due in Lebanon to probe Hariri killing
Lebanonwire 24/02/05

A UN-appointed commission was due to arrive in Lebanon Thursday to join the investigation into the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri last week.

"The team of Irish police officers is expected to arrive in Beirut later today to start their mission," one diplomatic source told AFP.

The team is being led by deputy commissioner Peter Fitzgerald and includes forensic, judicial and political experts.

The Lebanese opposition has accused the regime and its political masters in Syria of having a hand in the February 14 massive bomb blast in a Beirut seafront neighborhood that killed Hariri and 17 others.

The authorities in Beirut have denied any responsibility in the killing and agreed to cooperate with a UN commission of inquiry but have rejected a full international probe.

The UN team is due to complete their initial investigation within a month.

A UN statement on Monday said UN chief Kofi Annan was sending the team following a request by the Security Council to "urgently report on the circusmtances, causes and consequences of the killing."

"The team will make contact with Lebanese officials and others to gather such information as necessary for the Secretary General to report to the Council in a timely manner," it said.

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Straw places suspicion on Syria
Diplomatic editor
22/02/05

The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, went further than any other senior international statesman yesterday when he pointed the finger of blame at Syria for the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

Mr Straw, speaking at a press conference in Brussels, said there was "a high level of suspicion of the potential involvement of Syria in the assassination".

He went beyond the US president, George Bush, who admitted he did not as yet know who was responsible but called anyway on the Syrian government to pull its troops out of Lebanon.

Mr Hariri was killed in an explosion along with other members of his cavalcade as he made his way along the Beirut waterfront on Monday last week.

A Foreign Office source said last night that Mr Straw's comments were in response to a reporter's question and not based on inside information from British or other intelligence agencies.

The foreign secretary said: "An international inquiry should be undertaken without delay to shed light on the circumstances and those responsible for this attack."

Along with other European foreign ministers, he is backing a UN team being dispatched by the secretary general, Kofi Annan, to investigate the killing. The team is led by Peter Fitzgerald, a deputy Irish police commissioner.

During most of his political career Mr Hariri publicly supported the posting of Syrian troops on Lebanese soil, but last autumn he resigned in protest at Syrian interference in Lebanese politics.

Informed sources in Beirut said that after a difficult meeting with the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, in Damascus, he was warned by one of the many branches of Syria's intelligence that he was a marked man.

Internal battles are being fought in Damascus between those factions trying to maintain a low profile in the face of US pressure and those unwilling to give up the profits that continue to pour in from Syrian occupation of parts of Lebanon.

Mr Hariri's death has united Lebanese political groups in opposition to Syria.

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Lebanon launches judicial probe into Hariri murder
Lebanonwire 22/02/05

BEIRUT, Feb 22 (AFP) - Lebanon's supreme Council of Justice launched a judicial inquiry Tuesday into the killing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in a massive Beirut bomb blast eight days ago.

The council, the highest judicial authority in the land which usually deals only with matters affecting national security, said it was filing a complaint against "X" over the attack, which killed Hariri and 17 other people.

The complaint is against an "unknown person over the assassination of the former prime minister with the use of explosives against his convoy, which killed him and a number of other people and wounded others, caused damage to infrastructure and property and brought harm to the security of the state."

Rabiha Qaddura, prosecutor general at Lebanon's highest appeals court who is the interim head of the Council of Justice, has asked examining magistrate Michel Abu Aarrage to lead the inquiry.

Lebanon's opposition has accused the government and its political masters in Damascus of having a hand in the killing, which caused carnage not seen in Beirut since the 1975-1990 civil war.

As well as 18 confirmed dead, another man is also missing, while the damage caused by the blast is running close to 50 million dollars, according to media reports.

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Lebanon to cooperate with UN in Hariri death inquiry by Nayla Razzouk
Lebanonwire 19/02/05

Lebanon will cooperate with a UN commission of inquiry into the killing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri to find those responsible and try to ease tensions provoked by the murder, the pro-Syrian speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, said on Sunday.

The decision, taken amid opposition accusations of Syrian involvement and open defiance of the Damascus-backed government, reversed an earlier statement by a minister that Beirut was set to snub the probe.

"President Emile Lahoud received a letter from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on this subject and replied on the basis of cooperation," said Berri.

"There are clarifications (that we will be seeking) but on that basis we're going to cooperate, because it's in the interests of the Lebanese state that the truth will out within the framework of respect for its sovereignty."

Opposition parties in Lebanon have been galvanised by last Monday's killing, in a huge bomb blast, of the five-times former premier, into increasing demands that Syria pull out its 14,000 troops and lift its political grip off its tiny neighbour.

Internationally, France and the United States, which co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution last September demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon, have been the most vocal in insisting on a UN inquiry.

Damascus has refused to take the blame for Hariri's killing.

"Syria is the main loser ... and (Hariri) was the most pro-Syrian" among Lebanese leaders, the Syrian ambassador in London, Sami al-Khiami, told the BBC on Sunday.

Syria's government daily Tishrin accused Washington and Israel of leading a "campaign of intimidation" against Damascus and its backers in Beirut since Hariri's murder.

Berri told journalists: "Unmasking the circumstances of this crime is our number one priority, not only because it is a national duty but also to calm people's spirits and put a stop to the false accusations being bandied about."

Opposition parties have accused the government and Syria of being behind the bomb blast on the Beirut seafront, which also killed 14 other people.

Lebanon's Interior Minister Suleiman Frangieh, who earlier rejected the idea of an international inquiry commission, said on Sunday on television: "If people want to help us, all right, but this is a sovereign state. Lebanon is capable of leading an inquiry; there is no question of giving up our sovereignty."

A meeting of pro-Syrian Lebanese political leaders on Sunday rejected calls for the government to quit. In a statement read by Berri they said a committee had been formed "charged with making contact with all parties, without exception" to bring about dialogue.

But Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, viewed as the main opposition leader in Lebanon, rejected calls for dialogue and said only talks directly with Damascus could help resolve the crisis caused by Hariri's killing.

A large demonstration called by the opposition for Monday, in defiance of government warnings, is to coincide with a Brussels summit between the US and French presidents.

The mounting war of words has prompted another call for calm from Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, spiritual leader of Lebanon's Maronite Christians, the community from which much of the longstanding opposition to Syria's influence
is drawn.

"This catastrophe ... has stirred emotions. But national issues should not be handled with emotional reactions, but with moderation, planning and dialogue," he said.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced late Friday that police Deputy Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald had been made available to the United Nations to head the probe into Hariri's killing.

Thousands of people continue to converge each evening on Martyrs' Square where Hariri was buried, to shout "Syria Out" and "Down with the government," despite warnings from the authorities that they will start enforcing a ban on illegal gatherings.

Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mrad has vowed that the authorities "will not allow any security breaches" after the mourning period which officially ended on Friday. He had also said that the government was poised to boycott the probe decided by the UN Security Council.

The deteriorating situation in Lebanon has apparently convinced Arab League chief Amr Mussa to bring forward a visit to an increasingly isolated Syria which had been planned for Wednesday.

He was expected to travel to Damascus Sunday evening for talks the following day with President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara.

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Lebanon asks Switzerland for explosive experts in Hariri assassination probe
Lebanonwire 19/02/05

The Swiss government said Friday that Lebanon has requested help from Swiss experts on explosives and DNA analysis as part of its investigation into the attack this week that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

"We have received a written request from the attorney general of Lebanon.

We are currently evaluating the request," said Carine Carey, a spokesperson for the Swiss ministry of foreign affairs.

Lebanon said it is hunting for six people who flew from Beirut for Australia, leaving traces of explosives on aircraft seats, hours after a powerful bomb killed Hariri and 14 others on Monday.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese judiciary decided to seek the help of Swiss experts to probe the murder, after the authorities said that expertise from a "neutral country" could be brought in.

If Switzerland agrees, the country's police ministry will take part in evaluating the request and help identify the specialists that Lebanon needs.

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Lebanon hunts suspects after TNT traces found on Australia-bound plane
Lebanonwire 18/02/05

 Lebanon said Friday it is hunting for six people who flew from Beirut for Australia, leaving traces of explosives on aircraft seats, hours after a powerful bomb killed former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

"Six people left for Australia from Beirut airport a few hours after the attack and traces of TNT powder were recovered from the seats used by some of them," Justice Minister Adnan Addum said.

"These people have links with fundamentalist circles. I can't say more because of the demands of the investigation," he added.

One hitherto unknown Islamist group claimed it carried out Mondaay's bombing, saying it was in revenge for Hariri's links with Saudi Arabia where security forces have killed members of extremist groups. It gave no proof of its involvement.

Lebanese officials have said the attack was probably carried out by a suicide bomber but some have speculated that, given the widespread damage and force of the blast, the explosives could have been planted under the road before Hariri's convoy passed.

Lebanon has called in Swiss experts and DNA experts to help with the inquiry.

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Syria not involved in Hariri murder, not afraid of probe: ambassador Lebanonwire 16/02/05

Syria's ambassador to France, Siba Nasser, reaffirmed Wednesday that her country had nothing to do with the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri and said Damascus did not fear an international inquiry as called for by Paris.

"We don't fear an international inquiry. Syria had nothing to do with it," she told French radio station Europe 1.
"If the Lebanese government accepts it (the inquiry), we will accept it," she said.

"It may be that the Lebanese will soon ask neutral countries such as European states to help them look for clues," she said.

Syria, which maintains 14,000 troops in neighbouring Lebanon, is under pressure from a UN resolution put forward by France and the United States for it to cease influencing Lebanese politics.

Syria is seen as largely directing the actions of the current Lebanese government and has become a prime suspect in speculation as to who killed Hariri and 14 other people in a massive bomb blast in Beirut on Monday.

Hariri, a 60-year-old billionaire who spearheaded Lebanon's postwar reconstruction, resigned as prime minister last October while calling for Syria to stop its meddling in his country's affairs.

Nasser told Europe 1 that Hariri "was a big friend of Syria" and asserted that Damascus "does not want a permanent or indefinite presence in Lebanon."

She said the Syrian soldiers were there at the request of the Lebanese government and if ever it asked them to withdraw, "well, then, we would leave."

Immediately after Monday's assassination, France called for an international investigation into the blast. President Jacques Chirac announced he would attend Hariri's funeral Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council condemned the "terrorist" attack and asked for a report into the "circumstances, causes and consequences" of the killing of Hariri.

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Hariri killer bomb was in tunnel: opposition
Lebanonwire 16/02/05

BEIRUT, Feb 16 (AFP) - Former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri was killed by a bomb placed in a tunnel, Druze Opposition MP Marwan Hamadeh suggested in statements published Wednesay in the An-Nahar newspaper.

Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh said Tuesday that Hariri and 14 other people were probably killed by a suicide car bomber, but that investigators were still looking for concrete evidence.

Hamadeh, citing unconfirmed reports, said explosives were placed in a tunnel in an area where public works maintenance took place a few days before the attack, the newspaper said.

That part of the seafront road had been closed to traffic, the newspaper quoted Hamadeh as saying.

A retired Lebanese army general, Shehade Maaluf, is also quoted by An-Nahar as saying he believes that the explosion was caused by a bomb placed in a tunnel because of the size of the crater it blasted in the road.

Maaluf said a close examination of asphalt debris scattered across 300 meters (yards) in the area of the explosion could help solve the mystery.

The attack caused destruction and carnage not seen since the days of the 1975-1990 civil war.

For his part, Franjieh said "the vehicle was not parked along the side of the road. The crater dug by the explosion was in the middle of the road. So the vehicle was alongside (Hariri's) convoy and could have tried to ram into
it.

"It is possible that it was a suicide bomber who was driving it," he said.A shadowy Islamist group claimed in a videotape that it was behind the attack, but experts suggested it required highly sophisticated technology that only a well organised group or government might possess.

But on Tuesday Druze leader Walid Jumblatt scoffed at the claim and accused the Syrian and pro-Damascus Lebanese regimes of "eliminating" Hariri and an attack against Hamadeh.

Hamadeh, a former minister and deputy of Jumblatt, survived an assassination attempt in October, only yards away from where Hariri was killed.

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Lebanon to seek Swiss expert help to probe Hariri murder Lebanonwire 16/02/05

Lebanon decided Wednesday to seek the help of Swiss experts to probe the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, judicial sources said.

An examining magistrate of Lebanon's military tribunal, Rashid Mezher, has decided to seek the help of Swiss experts specialised in explosives and DNA, the sources said.

Lebanon's Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh has rejected a French proposal for an international inquiry into Monday's assassination of Hariri in a huge Beirut blast but not ruled out assistance from experts of a neutral country.

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Lebanon security storm Hariri bomb claimer's home
Reuters 15/02/05


Lebanese security forces have stormed the Beirut home of a man they identified as a Palestinian who appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

A Lebanese security forces statement said Ahmed Tayseer Abu Adas was not in the house. He had earlier appeared in a video aired by Al Jazeera claiming responsibility killing Hariri and calling him a Saudi agent.

Authorities were investigating whether he had blown himself up in the car bombing
that killed Hariri or whether he was an accomplice in plotting the attack, the statement said.

"Computer equipment and tapes were seized from his house and some documents were confiscated for investigation," it said. Early investigations had shown he was a member of an Islamic school of thought known as Wahhabism -- an austere form of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia.

Western governments and moderate Muslim clerics have said this brand of faith, which rules all aspects of life, was fomenting extremism.

The tape broadcast by Al Jazeera showed Abu Adas sitting in front of a black flag carrying the name "Group for Advocacy and Holy War in the Levant".

He called Hariri a Saudi agent and said the attack was also "in revenge for the pious martyrs killed by security forces of the Saudi regime" and used a religious term for Saudi Arabia often used by al Qaeda militants fighting Riyadh's US-allied government since 2003.

The Levant is the historical name of the region including today's Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan.

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Lebanon's bloody history of political assassinations
Lebanonwire 15/02/05

Rafic Al-Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister who was killed Monday in a car bomb explosion in Beirut, is among several other political figures who have been assassinated in Lebanon over the past three decades.

In March 1977 - Kamal Jumblatt, Druze leader, was killed in an ambush in his Shouf mountain fiefdom in central Lebanon.

In June 1978 - Tony Franjieh, son of former President Suleiman Franjieh, was killed in raid by Christian militia rivals at his home in Ehden, north Lebanon.

In Sept 1982 - Bashir Gemayel, elected president, was killed in a bomb explosion before he takes office.

In June 1987 - Lebanon's veteran Prime Minister Rashid Karami was killed by a bomb in an army helicopter in Tripoli.

In May 1989 - Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassan Khaled, head of Lebanon's Sunni community, was assassinated in a car explosion in Beirut. 22 people were also killed and 80 others were wounded in the blast.

In Nov 1989 - President Rene Muawad, a Syrian-backed Maronite Christian, was killed in a huge bomb explosion in Beirut.

In Oct 1990 - Dany Chamoun, chairman of the National Liberal Party and former Christian militia leader, was shot dead in Christian suburb of Beirut.

In Feb 1992 – Israeli agents assassinated Abbas Mussawi, leader of Hezbollah resistance group, in helicopter attack of his convoy in south Lebanon.

In Jan 2002 - Elie Hobeika, former minister and leader of pro-Israeli Christian group involved in 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, was killed in Beirut.

In May 2002 - Mohammad Jihad Ahmed Jibril, son of Ahmed Jibril, leader of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General-Command (PFLP-GC), was assassinated in Beirut.

In Feb 2005 - Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was killed in a powerful car explosion that destroyed his convoy on Beirut's seafront.

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Lebanon says Hariri probably killed by suicide car bomb

Lebanonwire 15/02/05

Lebanon said on Tuesday that former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was almost certainly killed in a suicide car bombing and ruled out an international probe into his death.

"The security services are almost sure that it was a suicide car bomb. It is not an official announcement but it is almost sure," Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh Franjieh told a press conference.

But he said there was no question of an international investigation as called for by Lebanon's former colonial rulers France, among others.

Monday's attack killed 14 people in addition to Hariri and wounded about 100 more.

"An international inquiry is unacceptable. Investigators will, if necessary, call upon experts from neutral countries," he said.

Franjieh said investigators were still looking for concrete evidence on the attack, adding that human remains found at the scene would be tested for DNA.

"The vehicle was not parked along the side of the road. The crater dug by the explosion was in the middle of the road. So the vehicle was alongside (Hariri's) convoy and could have tried to ram into it.

"It is possible that it was a suicide bomber who was driving it," he said.

A previously unknown Islamist group claimed it was behind the attack, in a video broadcast on Al-Jazeera television on Monday.

An-Nosra wal Jihad fi Bilad al-Sham (Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria) said it carried out what it called a suicide attack because of Hariri's close ties with the Saudi regime, but it provided no proof of the claim.

Hariri, a self-made billionaire, had close business ties with the Saudi royal family and was a frequent visitor to the oil-rich Gulf state which has been a key financial backer of Lebanon.

 

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