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UN's Annan Says He Wants to Avoid Politicizing Hariri Assassination Report

A U.N. investigator probing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is due to present his report this week. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is hoping to prevent the report from aggravating tensions between Lebanon and Syria.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Mr. Annan acknowledged the potentially explosive nature of Hariri assassination report.

The secretary-general named German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis to investigate the February bomb explosion that killed the former Lebanese prime minister.

During his probe, Mr. Mehlis named four pro-Syrian Lebanese army officers as suspects, and questioned several Syrian officials in the course of his probe. One, Syria's interior minister Ghazi Kanaan, reportedly committed suicide last week.

Monday, French police said they had arrested a former Syrian intelligence official accused of giving false testimony to Mr. Mehlis.

With that in mind, Secretary-General Annan said he does not want to see the assassination report used for political purposes.

"I hope the report, which is a technical one, is not going to be politicized," said Mr. Annan. "I know there have been lots of political commentary and lots of discussions about it, but from where I sit, I'm determined to make it as technical as possible and not allow politicization of the process."

Mr. Annan said he has not decided either whether to extend Mr. Mehlis's mandate, as requested by Lebanese officials, or expand it to include Mr. Kenaan's suicide and attacks on journalists reporting on the case.

"Let me say that I have spoken to Mehlis, but I will wait for his full report to be able to make a judgment whether to extend the mandate or not, and if we do extend the mandate, what specifically would it entail, and what would they need to do," he added.

The bomb blast that killed Rafik Hariri and 20 others February 14 led to anti-Syrian demonstrations and intensified international pressure for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Syria has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing.

The U.N. Security Council ordered an independent investigation after a fact-finding commission concluded that Lebanon's probe of the assassination was flawed. Mr. Annan initially gave Mr. Mehlis and his team of detectives three months to do their work.

In August, Mr. Mehlis was granted a three-month extension as the scope of the investigation expanded.