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Lebanon requests Swiss help over Hariri murder

Former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a bomb blast in Beirut on Monday Keystone

Lebanon has officially asked for Swiss help in investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri was killed in a car bombing in Beirut on Monday, which claimed the lives of at least 14 other victims.

The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed it was considering a request for assistance received on Thursday.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud initially asked the Swiss ambassador in Beirut, Thomas Litscher, to send “neutral” Swiss experts to help investigate Hariri’s killing.

The verbal request was later followed up with a letter, which Litscher was asked to pass to Swiss President Samuel Schmid.

A Lebanese government statement said Litscher had assured President Lahoud that Switzerland was prepared to extend its help in the matter.

Swiss parliamentarian Peter Briner, who heads the Senate foreign political commission said there were risks attached to Swiss involvement, but that those guilty of the crime had to be tracked down.

“I support Switzerland’s involvement,” he said. “It is an honour to be chosen as an intermediary.”

Under pressure

Lebanese media reports said the chief investigator had decided to seek the help of Swiss explosives experts after revisiting the scene of the crime.

The Lebanese government on Tuesday ruled out an international investigation into the killing, but has since come under growing pressure from Hariri’s family to enlist foreign help.

French President Jacques Chirac and the European Union foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, have added their weight to calls for the enquiry to be widened.

Beirut said it hoped to have a positive answer from Switzerland shortly. “We are optimistic,” presidential spokesman Raic Chlala told Swiss media.

“To date Lebanese experts have not been able to determine the exact nature of the attack,” Chlala said. “That is why we have turned to neutral foreign experts for help.”

If the request is approved, the Federal Police Office will be responsible for assessing the situation and deciding which experts to send.

swissinfo with agencies

Switzerland is considering a request from Lebanon for police experts to help investigate the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut on Monday, in which at least 14 others died.

On Wednesday, 100,000 Lebanese protested against Syria’s influence in Lebanon as Hariri was laid to rest.

They suspect Syria of being behind the attack.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR