Beirut, 16. (AKI) – Belgian judge Serge Brammertz is set to replace German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis as head of a UN commission of inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, according to Lebanese newsreports. On Thursday the UN Security Council extended the commission’s mandate by another six months to June 2006, as requested by the Lebanese government. Since September 2003, Brammertz, a criminal law expert, has been working at the International Court of Jusitce (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands.

Before taking up that position the 43-year-old judge handled several high profile cases in Belgium against organised crime and illegal drug trafficking. At the ICJ he has followed the war crimes proceedings in Congo and Uganda. Also on Thursday the Security Council said the commission would also investigate the wave of terrorist attacks that have hit Lebanon since October 2004 when an assassination attempt was made against Lebanon’s current telecommunications minister, Marwan Hamade. The most recent attack was Monday’s murder of prominent anti-Syrian politician and publisher Gibran Tueni.
In a report submitted to UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Mehlis accused Syria of not co-operating fully with the Hariri probe in which top Syrian security officials have been implicated. "We have to keep the pressure on Syria because it only co-operates under string international pressure," Mehlis said in an interview with the BBC.

Late on Thursday, Syria’s immigration minister Buthayna Shabaan criticised Mehlis’ report for "being based on the preconception that Syria was behind the attack against Hariri."
"All the [investigations] are focused on Syria and with no one looking elsewhere [for those responsible for the attack]" he said.