Who killed Lebanon’s former prime minister? That is the question a team of UN-appointed investigators hopes to answer. Led by Irish Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, the trio are in Beirut where the Syrian-backed government has pledged to co-operate. A huge bomb killed Rafik al-Hariri in the city earlier this month, piling pressure on Syria to withdraw the estimated 14,000 troops it has deployed in Lebanon.
On Thursday, Damascus said it would move soldiers closer to its own border and that it was ready to work with the United Nations to implement a Security Council resolution demanding a pullout. When or indeed whether a full withdrawal will take place remains unclear. Wael Abu Faour of Lebanon’s opposition is sceptical. He says Syrian promises are nothing new.
“The most important thing is that the Syrians are threatening the Lebanese that if they withdraw from Lebanon there will be internal problems between The Lebanese. This is unacceptable,” he said. Since Hariri’s assassination, tens of thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets to protest against Syria’s military and political grip on its tiny neighbour. The former premier had himself urged Damascus to withdraw its troops shortly before his murder. Syria denies claims it had a hand in the attack which it has condemned.