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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2005, 16:22 GMT
Detlev Mehlis: Diligent detective
UN lead investigator Detlev Mehlis
Detlev Mehlis is said to have the full respect of his team
The man charged with investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has a formidable reputation and very relevant experience.

German Detlev Mehlis has delved into the murky world of state-sponsored crime before.

His long investigation into the 1986 bombing of La Belle nightclub in Berlin, which killed two US soldiers and a Turkish woman, eventually concluded in 2001 with the conviction of four people, including a former Libyan diplomat.

A German court found the attack was run by Libya's secret service.

Specialising in terrorism and international organised crime, Mr Mehlis, 55, has been involved in prosecution for 25 years and a senior public prosecutor in Berlin since 1992.

He is regarded as a diligent detective, unlikely to be distracted by the political background and international intrigue surrounding the Hariri case.

No leaks

Observers, especially in Syria and Lebanon, watched as his inquiry made slow but steady headway, gradually reaching further and further up the chain of command in both countries.

Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were arrested, and Mr Mehlis has demanded access to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's own brother and brother-in-law.

The detective is reported to have his colleagues' utmost respect. Indeed, despite running a team of about 100 people from more than 50 countries, he managed to avoid the usual leaks that spring ahead of any report to the United Nations Security Council, making its delivery in October one of the most keenly-awaited in some time.

He flatly refused demands from some Security Council members for a preview.

Heavy burden

Mr Metlis is said to be well aware of the consequences his final report could have in Lebanon, Syria, and across the Middle East.

He said in an interview that the hopes of the entire Lebanese people weighed on his shoulders like "sacks of cement".

Raghida Dergham, of the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat, said the outcome "will cause an earthquake in the whole Arab region".

His investigation, if successful, could also become a precedent for UN investigations into international crimes.

But his backers express their confidence that if anyone is the man for such a job, it is Mr Mehlis.




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