The president of the Lebanon tribunal, which investigates the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, met President Michel Sleiman and other officials on his first visit to Lebanon on Monday.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) chief, Antonio Cassese, briefed Sleiman "on the progress the tribunal has made and the steps planned for the next phase of the investigation," a statement released by Sleiman's office said.
Cassese’s first visit to Lebanon is to promote the tribunal to the Lebanese population, and show that they are committed to fulfilling its mandate. Results of the visits are to follow later in the week.
Cassese and his deputy, Ralph Riachy, are also scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Ali Shami and Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar, as well as parliament speaker Nabih Berri during their week long visit.
According to Peter Foster, spokesperson at the tribunal in Leidschendam, the Netherlands, the purpose of the visit is “to facilitate an exchange of views and create an opportunity to meet government representatives and key officials interested in the work of the Tribunal.”
These include the President of the Bar Association and several universities, including St. Joseph and the Lebanese University.
In order to preserve the tribunal's impartiality, Cassese and Riachy will not meet Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated premier, or Defence Minister Elias Murr "because of the personal link they have with cases that may fall under the tribunal's jurisdiction," the tribunal announced prior to his visit.
Murr was also a minister in Rafiq Hariri's cabinet. While unforeseen, “conflict of interest needs to be avoided”, said Foster.
The tribunal, also dubbed the Hariri tribunal, was set up by the UN Security Council in 2007 to try suspects in the assassination of Hariri and 22 others, killed in a massive bomb blast on the Beirut seafront in February 2005.
The bombing was widely blamed on Syria although Damascus has denied any involvement. A UN commission of inquiry said it had found evidence to implicate Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services but there are currently no suspects in custody.