Okabe said in a statement: "In his letter, the secretary-general stresses the fact that the Netherlands already hosts several courts and tribunals ... and that the experience gained could be of great value for the special tribunal for Lebanon."

Balkenende said his government would deal with the request "in a constructive manner," his spokesman Gerard van der Wulp said.

Van der Wulp said further discussions were expected "fairly quickly".


Omar Nachabe, a Lebanese journalist, told Al Jazeera: "This is another indication that the process is moving forward and gives a lot of hope to many Lebanese."


Hariri and 22 other people were killed in a truck
bombing in Beirut in February 2005 [AFP]
"There is still a lot of scepticism ... There is a big risk that any decision made by the court will be a political one."

At the request of Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, the UN Security Council voted to set up the special tribunal on June 10, despite opposition from anti-government parliamentarians.

UN officials have said it will take at last a year to get the court functioning after a UN-established commission completes its investigation.

UN investigators probing the killing have identified a number of people who may have been involved or known about it in July.

Serge Brammertz, the Belgian prosecutor, said that investigators believed Hariri, a prominent critic of Syria, may have been killed because of his support for a 2004 UN resolution demanding that Syrian and other foreign troops withdraw from Lebanon.

Brammertz did not name any suspects in his report to the Security Council, but expressed concern that deteriorating security in Lebanon could hamper the inquiry.

Brammertz is also investigating 17 other political murders or attempted murders in Lebanon.