11/22/2005, 00.00
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Mehlis back in Beirut on Lebanon's Independence Day

Lebanon's political leaders come together for the traditional military review on Independence Day, but celebrate the anniversary separately. Mehlis and Syria are in a tug-of-war over location where to interrogate Syrian officials with possible information on the Hariri assassination.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Detlev Mehlis, the head of the UN commission investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, is back in Lebanon today, the day that marks the country's 62nd independence from France.

This year the event is a particularly joyful after the Hariri murder forced Syria to pull out is troops from the land of the Cedar. However, political divisions remain; a legacy of Syria's 29-year occupation. Meantime, violent clashes between Israeli forces and Hizbollah in the south of the country are a reminder that the peace process is still stalled.

The traditional military review in Martyrs' Square went off without a hitch, attended by the highest dignitaries of the state: President Émile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, and National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri. But divisions emerged soon after when the traditional reception at Baabda Palace hosted Mr Lahoud was boycotted by many ambassadors. Anti-Syrian politicians and many ordinary Lebanese converged instead on Rafik Hariri's tomb near the Grand Mosque e

"I hope that next on Independence Day, we shall know the truth," said Prime Minister Siniora, a close Hariri advisor, as he was referring to the ongoing UN investigation.

The inquiry itself is in a delicate hiatus as a result of a tug-of-war between German judge Mehlis and Syrian authorities over where the commission can interrogate six Syrian officials considered informed witnesses to the Hariri attack. Syrian President al-Assad's own brother-in-law is among the group.

Mr Mehlis wants to interview them at the commission head quarters in a Beirut suburb; since that would be in Lebanon, he could detain them as suspects.

Syria has instead proposed the UN headquarter in the Golan Heights along the ceasefire line with Israel or at the offices of the Arab League in Cairo.

A meeting on Friday in Barcelona (Spain) between Mehlis and the legal advisor to Syria's Foreign Ministry did not break the deadlock.

Diplomatic sources claim that Mehlis might be back before the Security Council before December 15 if Syria does not co-operate.

Speaking on the issue UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that Mid East leaders are hoping that Syria will eventually co-operate with the United Nations for they fear Syria might turn into "another Iraq".

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See also
UN commission's request for an interview with Assad a bombshell
Possible link between Hariri murder and 14 other attacks, says Brammertz
UN pressing Syria to fully respect Lebanese sovereignty
Syria to reject UN request to interview Assad
In Vienna Mehlis ready to interrogate Syrians involved in the Hariri assassination


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