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UN finds new clues in Hariri case

Rafik Hariri in Beirut, 16 April 2003
Mr Hariri was a business tycoon as well as a dominant political figure

The UN body investigating the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri says fresh evidence could help identify new suspects in the case.

The commission also says it has uncovered evidence of a connection between Mr Hariri's killing and other acts of political violence in Lebanon.

An earlier report suggested Syria might have been implicated in the killing, a claim Damascus vehemently denies.

Mr Hariri and 22 others were killed by a massive truck bomb in Beirut in 2005.

The 11th report from the UN's International Independent Investigation Commission says it "has acquired new information that may allow it to link additional individuals to the network that carried out the assassination".

In this latest report the UN's chief investigator, Daniel Bellemare, also says tests have helped pin down the possible "geographic origin" of the suicide bomber, although it gave no further details.

Syrian cooperation

The report for the Security Council is Mr Bellemare's second since he took charge of the investigative commission earlier this year.

The results of [tests] help to identify the possible geographic origin of the suicide bomber
Eleventh commission report

His first, in April, said a network of individuals planned and carried out the killing.

Mr Bellemare also says Syria has provided "generally satisfactory" co-operation with the investigation.

Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that a special tribunal to try the case would start operating from 1 March 2009 at the Hague in the Netherlands.

Mr Bellemare is asking the UN security council to extend his mandate - set to expire on 31 December - until the end of February 2009 to ensure a smooth transition to the tribunal.

Investigators have said a likely motive for the killing was the role of Mr Hariri, who became a prominent critic of Syria, in support of a 2004 UN resolution demanding that Syrian and other foreign troops withdraw from Lebanon.

Mr Hariri's death in 2005 triggered huge demonstrations in Lebanon against the Syrians.

Despite its denial of involvement, Damascus eventually bowed to international pressure, pulling out its troops after nearly 30 years of military presence.

The original head of the investigation, Detlev Mehlis, implicated senior Syrian officials in the case, but his two successors, including Mr Bellemare, have not repeated the charge and no suspects have been publicly identified.

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