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Lebanon's president urges UN to speed up Hariri probe
Updated: 2005-11-15 11:23

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on Monday urged UN investigators to speed up the probe of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Lebanon will cooperate with the United Nations and welcomes all efforts aimed at maintaining Lebanon's security and stability, Lahoud told visiting UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari.

Syria and the United Nations remained at loggerheads over where a UN team will be able to question six Syrian officials linked to the Hariri killing.

Syria is coming under mounting international pressure to cooperate with the UN probe into a massive bombing that killed Hariri and 20 other people in Beirut on February 14.

Upon his arrival at Beirut airport late Sunday night, Gambari also called on Syria to fully cooperate with the UN probe lnto the assassination.

"I don't think there is any alternative (for Syria) but to cooperate with the (Detlev) Mehlis commission because that was what the UN Security Council demanded," he said.

"I understand that Syria has also publicly expressed willingness to cooperate," he added.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on October 31, demanding Syria cooperate fully with the UN probe or face possible "further action."

Chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis has requested through the UN to question six Syrian security and intelligence officers in Lebanon, reportedly including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat.

But Syria said Sunday that Mehlis had rejected a proposal for questioning the six Syrian officials in Syria or at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

A Syrian judicial committee formed to investigate Hariri's killing continued on Monday questioning Syrian officials whose names were mentioned in Mehlis' report.

In his report to the Security Council last month, Mehlis hinted that Hariri could not have been killed without the complicity of top security officials of Syria and Lebanon.

The report also claimed Lahoud had received a phone call from a suspect just minutes before the bomb blast that killed Hariri.

The Syrian government and Lahoud's office immediately denied the report's claims.

"These allegations are aimed at tarnishing the presidency," said a statement issued by Lahoud's office, adding that "President Lahoud will continue to fulfill his duties in line with the constitution."

The Hariri's killing sparked massive anti-Syrian protests and led to Syrian troops' withdrawal from neighboring Lebanon in April after 39 years of military presence.

Meanwhile, the UN report triggered renewed opposition calls for Lahoud, a Christian Maronite, to step down for his alleged involvement in the assassination.

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