Hariri probe team re-enacts blast

The controlled test blast is part of the investigation into the 2005 assassination of ex-Lebanese PM Rafiq al-Hariri.

    The court ran a test blast to try to reconstruct the massive explosion that killed Rafiq al-Hariri in Beirut [AFP/FILE]

    An international tribunal probing the 2005 killing of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, has conducted a "controlled explosive experiment".

    The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, said Tuesday's test blast at a military camp in France did not amount to a full-scale reconstruction of the assassination.

    "The controlled explosion involved replicating an explosion in order to carry out forensic tests," the court said in a statement.

    Investigators carried out the test blast at an air force base in Captieux, near Bordeaux in southwestern France, it added.

    The court ordered the operation under its mandate "to identify and prosecute those responsible" for the massive bombing that killed al-Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005.

    The former Lebanese leader's killing was widely blamed on Syria, which has denied any involvement.

    The tribunal, based in The Hague, was set up by a UN Security Council resolution in 2007. It has no suspects in custody and no trials scheduled.

    Expert analysis

    The court said experts appointed by the office of the prosecutor were present at the explosion, and will analyse the results.

    "The results and analysis will be part of the investigation and, as such, remain confidential," the court's statement said.

    Bernard Valero, a French foreign ministry spokesman, said his country had hosted the exercise at the request of the court and reaffirmed its support for the tribunal.

    "No one can or should prejudge the outcome of the court's work or try to exert influence on it," Valero told AFP.

    Fears of violence

    The test blast comes as the US, Britain and France warned against any interference with the probe at a UN Security Council meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis on Monday.

    Hezbollah, part of Lebanon's national unity government, has denounced the UN-backed court as a tool of US and Israeli policy and called on current prime minister Saad al-Hariri, Rafiq's son, to repudiate the tribunal.

    Syria, initially implicated by UN investigators in the bombing that killed al-Hariri, has always viewed the tribunal as politically motivated. Syrian officials say any indictments of Hezbollah would be considered to be targeting Syria too.

    Syria has denied involvement in al-Hariri's assassination but was forced to end its three-decade military presence in Lebanon following an international outcry.

    Fears of violence have intensified since rumors of the impending indictments began to circulate.

    Suleiman Franjieh, a pro-Syrian politician, warned last month of sectarian war in Lebanon if the tribunal indicted Hezbollah members.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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