UN investigators have identified a number of suspects who may have been involved in the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, the chief investigator reported Thursday.
In the eighth report of the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz said his team has recently undertaken a comprehensive consolidation of information with regard to progress made in the investigation.
The consolidation effort has "helped identify important aspects and individuals of common interest across several areas of the investigation," he wrote.
Investigators have identified "a number of persons of particular interest who may have been involved in some aspect of the preparation and execution of the attack on Rafik Hariri ... or could have had prior knowledge that plans to carry out these attacks were underway," he said.
"The commission will pursue this line of inquiry as a priority in the coming months," he said.
His team has also "significantly narrowed down its investigation into possible motives for the assassination to Hariri's political activities and to his political and personal relationships with political leaders and officials in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, he said.
Brammertz noted with concern the recent "deterioration in the political and security environment in Lebanon," which "is likely to have a negative effect on the commission's activities in the coming months."
But he said his team continued to "enjoy close and collegial cooperation with the Lebanese authorities."
Syria and other states have continued to provide mostly positive responses to his team's requests for assistance, he added.
He said the commission is working to "ensure a smooth hand-over " of its work to a special tribunal for Lebanon, which was established by the council on May 30 to prosecute suspects involved in the Hariri and other cases.
Last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began taking steps and measures to formally establish the special tribunal of an "international character."
The IIIC report, which has been sent to the UN Security Council by the UN chief, also provides information on its inquiries into other cases including the killing of the Lebanese lawmaker Walid Eido, who was killed with seven others last month in an explosion in Beirut.
Brammertz is expected to brief the Security Council on this report next Thursday at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Hariri was killed in a massive car bombing in Beirut in February 2005 that also took the lives of 22 other people. The UN Security Council set up the IIIC in April 2005 to spearhead the probe into the case.
(Xinhua News Agency July 13, 2007)