The president of a UN tribunal set up to try the suspected killers of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri will go to Lebanon on Monday next week for co-operation talks with senior officials, the court said today. Antonio Cassese and his deputy, Ralph Riachy, will spend a week in the country, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, said in a statement. "They will be meeting some of the country's most senior political and judicial officials," it said ? including President Michel Sleiman, the justice and foreign ministers, the prosecutor-general and the president of the supreme court.
In order to preserve the tribunal's impartiality, Mr Cassese and Mr Riachy would not meet prime minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain premier, or the deputy prime minister and defence minister Elias Murr "because of the personal link they have with cases that may fall under the tribunal's jurisdiction". Mr Murr was also a minister in Rafiq Hariri's cabinet. The aim of the visit was to "strengthen co-operation and maintain the dialogue between the tribunal and Lebanon", as well as to exchange views with judges, lawyers and international law experts, said the statement.
Mr Cassese and Mr Riachy would "listen to the concerns expressed by their interlocutors about the role of the tribunal and the challenges it faces." The tribunal was set up by a UN Security Council resolution in 2007 to try suspects in the murder of Hariri, killed in a massive bomb blast on the Beirut seafront in February 2005. The bombing was widely blamed on Syria although Damascus has denied any involvement. A UN commission of inquiry said it had found evidence to implicate Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services but there are currently no suspects in custody.