Lebanon to Cooperate on Slaying Probe

Lebanon (search), facing mounting pressure to find the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (search), said Sunday it will cooperate with U.N. investigators but not allow a full international inquiry as demanded by the United States.

Hariri was killed last Monday in a massive bomb explosion as he was driven through central Beirut. The blast killed 16 others and wounded more than 100.

Opposition leaders and Hariri's supporters have blamed the Lebanese and Syrian governments for the assassination. The Lebanese and Syrian governments have denied involvement and condemned the attack.

Syria has 15,000 soldiers in Lebanon and is under increasing U.S. and U.N. pressure to withdraw.

In Syria, more than 35 Syrian intellectuals and human rights activists supported calls for a troop withdrawal from Lebanon but also expressed concern at the level of anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon.

Hariri's family, France and the United States have demanded a full-fledged international inquiry. Lebanon has promised its own thorough investigation and has asked Switzerland to send DNA and explosives experts to help.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) decided Friday to send a team led by Ireland's deputy police commissioner to Beirut in the next few days to investigate Hariri's assassination.

Information Minister Elie Ferzli said Lebanon will cooperate with the U.N. team "to determine the causes, motives and circumstances" of Hariri's assassination, but Lebanese authorities alone will be responsible for the investigation.

A U.N. official in Beirut refused to talk about the U.N. team's mission, saying it was "a delicate issue." The official, requesting anonymity, said he had "no idea" when the U.N. team would arrive in Beirut.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, who had close ties with Hariri, also called for an independent team to investigate the assassination.

A previously unknown Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility, but Lebanon's Interior Ministry suggested the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber with ties to an international network.

Hariri, a self-made billionaire businessman, was credited with rebuilding Lebanon after its 1975-90 civil war, and his grave has become a pilgrimage destination.

Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has vowed that the government would "uncover the circumstances of the ugly crime." But many Lebanese have little confidence in an investigation by a government that has a record of failing to find those responsible for assassinations.

After Monday's bombing, Syrian President Bashar Assad replaced the chief of military intelligence, who commands Syrian agents in Lebanon, with his brother-in-law.