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U.N. authorizes new Lebanon investigation

/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to authorize an international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The resolution — co-sponsored by the United States, France and Britain — urged the independent commission to complete its work in three months but gave Secretary-General Kofi Annan authority to extend its mandate for an additional three months if necessary.

Hariri’s Feb. 14 killing in a bombing caused an uproar in Lebanon, sparking massive anti-Syrian street protests. The Lebanese opposition claimed Syria orchestrated the killing. Syria denies any involvement.

The resolution follows last month’s U.N. report by a fact-finding team which concluded that a Lebanese probe did not meet international standards. The team, led by deputy Irish police commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, called for an entirely new investigation by an outside team.

Lebanon has promised to cooperate with an independent investigation, but the council rejected amendments proposed by the government that would have given it a major role in the inquiry.

The resolution, approved 15-0, authorized an international independent investigation commission to assist Lebanese authorities in their investigation “of all aspects of this terrorist act,” but it left the commission to decide what role Lebanese authorities would play.

It also called on the Lebanese officials to give the investigators access to all documents and evidence in their possession. The commission also was given authority to collect any additional information and evidence and “to interview all officials and other persons in Lebanon that the commission deems relevant to the inquiry.”