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Hariri tribunal chief steps aside

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The chief investigator at the tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri announced he is leaving his post.

"It is with regret that I will leave the Tribunal and the ranks of the office of the prosecutor and the investigation team," writes Chief of Investigation Naguib Kaldas.

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Lebanon in 2005 asked the United Nations to establish an international special tribunal to examine the assassination of Hariri and 22 others.

The mandate for the tribunal is to prosecute those responsible for the February 2005 blast. Several Lebanese lawmakers point to Damascus as a source for the plot to kill the anti-Syrian premier.

Kaldas said he accepted the position on the understanding his term would expire in February 2010.

"I am leaving with the same sense of optimism that the Prosecutor has expressed about the progress we've made and continue to make in the investigation and I am confident that the team of professionals I am leaving behind will get the job done," he said.

Daniel Bellemare, the Canadian chief prosecutor for the tribunal, paid a visit to Beirut in December to meet top government officials.

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Bellemare's office stressed the visit was not indicative of any breakthrough in the case, however.

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