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Lebanese Ex-Premier's Assassination Probe Needed


Annan Calls For International Probe Into Lebanese Ex-Premier's Assassination

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the Security Council to launch an independent international investigation into last month's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri after receiving the report of a mission he set up to probe the circumstances, causes and consequences of the murder.

The mission, led by Peter Fitzgerald, a deputy Irish national police commissioner, which he appointed at the Council's request shortly after the bomb attack which killed Mr. Hariri and 19 others, handed over its report to Mr. Annan on Thursday, concluding that an independent, international investigation is needed.

Noting that the report raised some very serious and troubling allegations, the Secretary-General, in a letter to the 15-member body, endorsed the mission's recommendation, his spokesman said today.

Meanwhile, Terje Roed-Larsen, Mr. Annan's Special Envoy for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for pulling out all foreign forces from Lebanon, disbanding all militias and extending Government control over the whole country, will return to the region in April to seek the full withdrawal of Syrian forces.

It will be his third visit in two months as he works with both Syria and Lebanon to bring about a smooth implementation of the resolution.

After his last visit he said he had reached an understanding with President Bashar al-Assad that involved two phases: first, the withdrawal by 1 April at the latest of all Syrian troops and intelligence assets to the eastern Bekaa Valley, with two thirds on the Lebanese side and one third in Syria; secondly, the convening by 7 April, at the latest, of a joint Syrian-Lebanese military committee to decide the precise timelines for the complete and full withdrawal.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Mr. Roed-Larsen would want to sound out the people of both countries to get their sense of progress and was grateful to all sides for the cooperation he has received.

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