Lebanon seeks U.N. help in probing general’s killing

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Lebanon has asked the United Nations to help it investigate a car bomb that killed a top general this week in the latest of a string of political assassinations, the world body said on Thursday.

In a letter to the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received a letter from Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Wednesday requesting “technical assistance.”

“The government requested the International Independent Investigation Commission be in touch with the relevant Lebanese authorities for that purpose,” Ban said, referring to the U.N. body already investigating political attacks in Lebanon.

The commission is investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who died with 22 others in February 2005 in a Beirut car bomb blast, as well as 18 other political murders or attempted murders.

The commission is due to hand over its findings to a special tribunal that is being established in the Netherlands.

In this week’s attack, a car bomb killed Brig. Gen. Francois al-Hajj, head of army operations. He was a leading contender to replace military chief Gen. Michel Suleiman, who is set to be elected president.

The attack heightened tension in Lebanon, where a struggle over the presidency among rival factions has fueled the biggest political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

In the latest report on the U.N. investigative commission presented last month, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz warned that those who carried out the Hariri attack still had the ability and resources to strike again in Beirut.

Ban and the Security Council urged Lebanese leaders this week to conduct the presidential election without delay.

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