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Security Council to open Hariri probe

From CNN's Liz Neisloss

more videoVIDEO
A new videotape sheds light on Hariri's assassination.

U.N. report on Hariri's death criticizes Syrian security forces.
United Nations
Kofi Annan

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council has unanimously authorized an international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The council voted on Thursday after a U.N. fact-finding mission found that Lebanon's probe had "serious flaws" and had "neither the capacity nor the commitment to reach a satisfactory and credible conclusion."

Lebanon has promised to cooperate with this international probe, but diplomats were vague on how much authority the new commission would have to force Lebanese officials, including President Emile Lahoud, to be interviewed.

The resolution states Lebanon should provide the commission "full cooperation including access to all documentary, testimonial and physical evidence" and "freedom of movement."

In its report last month, the U.N. fact-finding team recommended an international independent commission to "uncover the truth" behind the February 14 bombing that killed 20 people, including Hariri, according to the United Nations.

However, the team also said that an investigation would not likely succeed under current Lebanese leadership.

The report said, "It is more than doubtful that such an international commission could carry out its tasks satisfactorily -- and receive the necessary cooperation from local authorities -- while the current leadership of the Lebanese security services remains in office."

After the unanimous vote, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Fayssal Mekdad, repeated the country's claims that it had nothing to do with the assassination. "Syria will never be involved in such dirty work, and the best is to go and search elsewhere for those who benefited from the crime. Syria is the main loser."

The council has asked that the new commission finish its work within three months, but U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan could extend the work for another three months.

Annan will appoint the members of the commission and is expected to give the Security Council a progress report in two months.

Hariri resigned as prime minister in protest over a change in the Lebanese constitution that allowed pro-Syrian Lahoud to remain in office.

Hariri's death sparked massive demonstrations for and against the presence of Syrian troops and security agents in Lebanon.

Damascus has exerted virtually unchallenged control over Lebanon for three decades. But under heavy international pressure, Syrian officials have promised U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen that it will withdraw all its forces by April 30, ahead of new parliamentary elections.

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