daily star, sept 30, BEIRUT: More help from UN member states is needed to advance the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, the head of the UN probe, Serge Brammertz, said on Friday. Briefing the UN Security Council on his second report, which was issued Monday, Brammertz said the investigations have progressed but that there should be "continued backing" from the international community for the probe. He said that so far, most of the member states that the UN has asked for help or information have responded in a timely fashion, including Syria, whose cooperation Brammertz called "generally satisfactory."

Syria’s UN Ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, told the council Friday that the UN probe under Brammertz was being conducted "in a professional manner" and should be given "time and the necessary resources" to establish the truth without "politicization and false hypotheses." He said Damascus was fully committed to cooperate "as long as the investigation continues to be professional." As for the path of investigations and results reached, Brammertz said the UN probe "is satisfied with the progress made … but it still needs help and full support from UN member states on technical, legal and judicial matters relevant to the investigation."

He added that witness protection measures are also important "to allow more individuals with the appropriate knowledge to step forward and assist the commission."

Brammertz highlighted the latest findings of his probe. He said that a white Mitsubishi van holding 1.8 tons of explosives and driven by a suicide bomber  had detonated as Hariri’s motorcade passed.

Hariri died in a massive explosion which claimed the lives of 20 other people, and injured over 50 passersby.

Brammertz said that the UN probe was "examining information suggesting [that Hariri] was the subject of earlier surveillance, and possibly earlier attempts to kill him."

"It is likely that the alleged bombing team knew that electronic counter-measures were in place to protect the convoy and Rafik Hariri, and that they chose a method of attack that would not be impeded by such counter-measures," he said.

Brammertz also spoke of "a DNA analysis conducted on the human remains on the crime scene, which produced crucial results … Several of these remains appear to correspond to the person that allegedly detonated the improvised explosive device: a man in his early 20s. Further forensic tests are taking place to possibly establish the regional origin of the person."

Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, went on to address his probe’s other mission of investigating 14 other explosions which occurred in Lebanon throughout 2005. He pointed to evidence of a possible link between Hariri’s assassination and the 14 other attacks.

The 14 cases, which Lebanese authorities have been investigating with UN help, include assassinations and murder attempts targeting anti-Syrian Lebanese figures, as well as attacks on commercial interests.

The latest assassination claimed the life of anti-Syrian MP and journalist Gebran Tueni on December 12, 2005.

"The commission has strengthened its preliminary conclusion that the 14 cases were not commissioned and executed by 14 disparate and unconnected persons or groups with separate motives," Brammertz said. After the briefing, the Security Council discussed the report in a closed session. – The Daily Star, with agencies