Beirut vows to work with UN inquiry

Beirut has vowed to cooperate with the inquiry commission created by the UN Security Council to find who killed ex-premier Rafiq al-Hariri.

    Hammud (R) said there would be "no obstacles for cooperation"

    Foreign Minister Mahmud Hammud said Lebanon was "ready to cooperate with the commission in order to help it achieve its mission in the best way and as soon as possible."

    "There are no obstacles for cooperation as long as the United Nations takes Lebanon's sovereignty into consideration, and Lebanon has declared its sincere desire for a full cooperation," he said in remarks to several newspapers.

    International inquiry

    On Thursday, the Security Council agreed to set up an international inquiry into Hariri's murder - blamed by many on the Lebanese government and political masters in Syria, despite their denials.

    Syrian troops were seen
    withdrawing from the Bekaa

    Lebanon was thrown into olitical turmoil by the 14 February assassination, which sparked anti-Syrian protests and led to the resignation of the government.

    Prime Minister-designate Umar Karami was widely expected to announce next week a new government that the opposition hopes will draft a new electoral law to hold much-awaited legislative polls due by the end of May.

    Security Council Resolution 1595 followed a UN inquiry mission into the blast that killed al-Hariri and 18 others and is likely to increase international pressure on Syria.

    Investigation welcomed

    The UN mission found an investigation by Beirut was flawed and declared Syria, which has thousands of troops in Lebanon, which has been under its domination for almost three decades, responsible for political tensions ahead of the attack.

    Karami is expected to announce

    a new government next week

    The resolution called on Lebanon to cooperate fully with the commission, including free access to witnesses, documents and physical evidence. It also called on all states, without naming any, to provide any relevant information.

    Late on Thursday, a member of al-Hariri's political bloc in the Lebanese parliament, opposition lawmaker Ghinwa Jallul told AFP in Beirut she welcomed the UN move.

    "It is a big achievement. We welcome the resolution if the inquiry committee is given all executive, investigative and judiciary prerogatives to uncover the whole truth about the crime, and uncovers its perpetrators and organizers," she said.

    Syrians leave

    Diplomatic sources in New York said it could take several weeks to get police and 15 teams of legal experts, about 100 people in all, in place. Each team has its own interpreter and security.

    The resolution was approved as Syria on Thursday moved to the final phase of a troop pullout ending a 29-year-long military presence in Lebanon. Syria's Information Minister Mahdi Dakhl Allah vowed this would be completed before a 30 April deadline.

    During the night, more than 50 Syrian military trucks, full of soldiers and equipment, were seen crossing the Masnaa border point into Syria, an AFP correspondent said.

    Syrian troops were seen evacuating radar and artillery positions in Hadath Baalbak and Majdal Anjar in the eastern Bekaa Valley where Damascus had pulled back the bulk of its troops in recent weeks ahead of the final pullout.

    Syrian soldiers, aboard trucks, were also seen evacuating posts farther south in the western Bekaa district, mainly in the Qaraun dam area and the villages of Aana, Ammiq and al-Sitt Shaawala.

    In continuing attacks against Syrians in Lebanon, unknown assailants overnight set fire to 13 tents where Syrian workers had been living in the village of Abda in the northern district of Akkar after telling the labourers to leave.

    In the village of Kfar Mishki in the western Bekaa, an anonymous letter threatened Syrian workers, telling them "to leave Lebanon quickly, before it is too late."

    The workers filed a complaint at a nearby police station.



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