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France

Hariri murder blast reconstructed at UN tribunal in France

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2010-10-20

A UN tribunal carried out a controlled explosion at a French military base Wednesday as part of its investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

AFP - A reconstruction of the 2005 blast that killed Lebanon's ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri was staged on Tuesday at a military camp in France, an international tribunal probing the killing said.

Investigators carried out a "controlled explosive experiment" at an air force camp in Captieux, near Bordeaux in southwestern France, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, said in a statement.

"The controlled explosion involved replicating an explosion in order to carry out forensic tests," it said, adding that the test blast did not amount to a full-scale reconstruction of the assassination.

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

Hariri's killing was widely blamed on Syria but Damascus 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.

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," said the court's statement.

The mayor of the local commune Georges Bernard told AFP the blast took place about 5:00 pm (1500 GMT).

Hariri's assassination provoked a political crisis that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence in Lebanon.

Tensions over the tribunal have been growing steadily in recent weeks in Lebanon, raising fears of sectarian violence and the collapse of the national unity government, in which the Hezbollah movement has two ministers.

Unconfirmed reports have said the tribunal is set to indict members of Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, in connection with the murder.

Hezbollah has said it would not accept such an outcome but Rafiq Hariri's son and successor, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has ruled out any compromise on the tribunal.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said France 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.

Date created : 2010-10-20

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