BEIRUT, Lebanon, AP – The chief U.N. investigator into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is seeking more time to complete his work, a U.N. spokesman said Saturday.
The investigator, Detlev Mehlis, is to report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on August 25 about the bomb explosion that killed Hariri and 20 others as his motorcade was passing through central Beirut on Feb. 14.
"In his report, Mr. Mehlis will request an extension of his mission," the U.N. spokesman, Nejib Friji, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He declined to say how much more time Mehlis will seek.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said Friday the U.N. mission may need "a few weeks only" beyond its Sept. 15 deadline to complete the investigation.
Saniora, who spoke after meeting with Mehlis, had no specifics on the investigation and Mehlis, a German prosecutor, did not talk to reporters.
Hariri”s assassination shook Lebanese politics. It triggered mass protests that brought down the pro-Syrian government two weeks later, and it greatly increased international pressure on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. Syria withdrew the last of its troops in late April.
Lebanese opponents of Syria”s role in Lebanon accused Syria and its allies in the Lebanese security services of involvement in Hariri”s killing. Both authorities denied any involvement.
Mehlis has said little about the progress of the investigation. But at a June news conference, he he said the explosives were probably detonated in a truck. Many Lebanese had speculated the bomb was buried under the road, which would suggest official involvement as digging under a main road would require a permit.
"We are talking here about a probability of 99.9 percent" of an above-ground explosion, he said then.