UN Security Council to vote on Hariri murder probe

Posted in Broader Middle East | 01-Apr-05 | Author: Nayla Assaf| Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Firemen try to extinguish the fire engulfing one of the cars of the convoy of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri at the scene of a massive explosion in Beirut 14 February 2005.

BEIRUT: The UN Security Council is set to vote on a draft resolution establishing an international probe into the murder of former premier Rafik Hariri. The resolution is sponsored by the U.S., France and Britain, but with the Security Council presidency changing hands today, the vote could be delayed until later today or next week.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Major General Jamil Sayyed, the head of the Surete Generale and Ali Hajj, the head of the Internal Security Forces, were both interrogated by the Lebanese judiciary Wednesday evening. According to sources close to the investigation the interrogations will form part of a report the international investigative committee will consider when it arrives to pick up investigations.

Both security officials have strong ties to Syria and have been accused by Lebanon's political opposition of "direct or indirect" involvement in Hariri's killing.

Commenting on the security council resolution a spokesperson for the French UN Mission in New York told The Daily Star: "Up till now, the draft has only been discussed at the level of experts. It was not examined by the ambassadors yet. But it has been received very positively. I don't think any country will oppose it."

The killers of former premier Hariri remain at large, but the draft resolution insists the investigative team will have the power to uncover "all aspects of this terrorist act, including helping identify its perpetrators, sponsors, organizers and accomplices."

The draft calls for Lebanon's government to provide "full cooperation" to a proposed UN team of 50 people who will travel to Lebanon to carry out further investigations into Hariri's assassination and interview government officials.

The draft will demand the team has the "authority to collect any additional information and evidence, both documentary and physical, pertaining to this terrorist act, as well as to interview all officials and other persons in Lebanon, that the Commission deems relevant to the inquiry."

Any resulting evidence the UN team uncovers will be handed to the Lebanese judiciary and the UN Security Council.

But it is unlikely there will be an international court hearing at the International Criminal Court at the Hague as the Lebanese opposition have suggested and is currently being debated at the UN in the case of Sudan.

The draft comes hard on the heels of the UN's fact-finding mission report that condemned the Lebanese authorities' handling of the investigations and called for an international probe.

Although there is widespread support for the draft among security council members, Russia is insisting it wants the investigative team to include a Lebanese investigator.

After initial reluctance, both the Lebanese and Syrian governments have agreed to the international probe, but firmly rejected the content of the fact-finding mission report which they both accused of being "politically biased."

Meanwhile, Lebanon's judiciary continued investigating the murder, with the investigative magistrate ordering the Internal Security Forces to survey all the Mitsubishi pick-up trucks that have entered the country since 1995. - With agencies