Hariri probe leader Mehlis 'to leave in January'
2 December 2005, BEIRUT - Detlef Mehlis, the German heading the U.N. probe into the murder of Lebanon's ex-premier Rafik Hariri, will carry out other work in Germany when his mandate ends on January 1, a U.N. source said Friday.
2 December 2005
BEIRUT - Detlef Mehlis, the German heading the U.N. probe into the murder of Lebanon's ex-premier Rafik Hariri, will carry out other work in Germany when his mandate ends on January 1, a U.N. source said Friday.
"Mehlis has a contract that expires January 1. He has other tasks waiting for him in Germany, and might be returning to them," the source, who requested anonymity, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
The source stressed that Mehlis would not resign before his mandate ends on January 1. The commission's current mandate expires on December 15.
Mehlis' expected departure comes at a crucial moment for his inquiry, which is expected next week to begin questioning in Vienna five top Syrian officials implicated in the February 14 bomb blast that killed Hariri.
Mehlis' initial report to the United Nations Security Council was slammed by Syria as "biased."
Lebanese security sources meanwhile told DPA that Mehlis had left Beirut Friday for Paris, although it was not clear what his final destination would be. Mehlis said Wednesday that he would not be taking part in the Vienna hearings.
The Lebanese government on Thursday asked the United Nations to extend the mandate of the U.N. commission of inquiry beyond December 15, the deadline for Mehlis to deliver his report to the Security Council.
Lebanese Justice Minister Charles Rizk said Friday: "The government is in favour of a six-month extension of the commission's mandate.
"The Lebanese government initially has called on the U.N. to investigate the murder of premier Hariri. If Mr. Mehlis leaves when his mandate is over, then another person will be appointed by the U.N. to head the probe."
In a briefing to journalists on Wednesday, Mehlis said he would deliver his next report on the investigation as scheduled on December 15.
Hariri, a popular five-time prime minister and billionaire tycoon, was killed in a massive bomb blast on the Beirut seafront that also killed 20 other people.
An initial U.N. report released on October implicated top level Syrian and Lebanese officials in the assassination.
The commission started work in Beirut in June with a three-month mandate, which was extended in September.
"Melhis has work pending in Germany. His mandate was only for six months, so it is normal for him to leave if he wants," a Lebanese government source said.
In New York, U.N. undersecretary for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari said the U.N. commission's mandate could be extended even if Mehlis were to step down.
"It is perfectly clear that he (Mehlis) will need an extension. The Lebanese government has indicated that it is ready to accept this extension," Gambari said.
Mehlis, dubbed by the Lebanese media "the German wolf", had his name linked to a clutch of high-profile terror cases such as the manhunt for now convicted terrorist mastermind IIich Ramirez Sanchez, or Carlos the Jackal, two decades ago.
Subject: German news