By Evelyn Leopold, UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 (Reuters) – A Belgian prosecutor with the International Criminal Court is expected to be named on Wednesday as head of the U.N. investigation into the death of a former Lebanese prime minister, U.N. officials said. Serge Brammertz, now the deputy prosecutor of the Hague-based court, would replace German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who intends to leave the inquiry into the assassination of Rafik Hariri shortly after a replacement is chosen.

The appointment of Brammertz, a former federal prosecutor of Belgium, was to have been announced a month ago. But U.N. officials said Secretary-General Kofi Annan delayed the appointment because the Brammertz first needed to assure governments who support the International Criminal Court (ICC) that his departure would not delay investigations in Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Brammertz would take a leave of absence from the ICC, which was set up more than two years ago to prosecute individuals suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
He was appointed to his ICC position in November 2003 for a six-year term and has had experience in chasing down terrorists in Belgium.

Although the United States opposes the ICC, Washington supported the choice of Brammertz last month as did other key members of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, which authorized the Hariri investigation.

Mehlis has made clear in his reports to the Security Council that senior Syrian intelligence officials and their Lebanese allies probably were behind the killing of Hariri and 22 others in Beirut last Feb. 14. Syrian officials have adamantly denied President Bashar al-Assad’s government was involved in the assassination.

The U.N. team is seeking an interview with Assad’s brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, the chief of Syria’s intelligence service.