Hezbollah leader rejects prosecutor's demand to hand over information in Hariri case

BEIRUT (AP) — Hezbollah's leader said Friday he will not respond to a U.N.-appointed prosecutor's demand for the group to hand over all information relevant to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Speaking at a rally south of Beirut, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told a crowd of supporters that he does not recognize the legitimacy of the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 killing, and would cooperate with the Lebanese judiciary instead.

The remarks come more than a week after the U.N.-appointed prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, said that a packet of evidence handed over by Hezbollah was "incomplete," and failed to add anything to what Nasrallah had already disclosed at a news conference last month.

Bellemare also demanded that Hezbollah hand over all information relevant to his investigation, a demand Nasrallah brushed aside on Friday.

"We are unconcerned with the international investigation and tribunal," the Hezbollah leader said. "Consequently, we are not concerned with answering the questions or requests of the prosecutor."

But Nasrallah said he had handed the material over to the Lebanese judiciary and was ready to answer any follow-up questions it might have. Still, he warned that his group would stop such cooperation if it appeared that the Lebanese judiciary's role was simply to be a "post office box" between Hezbollah and the U.N. tribunal.

Last month, Nasrallah displayed what he said were intercepted aerial surveillance tapes that indicated Israeli intelligence had been tracking Hariri's movements before his death in a 2005 truck bomb explosion, and claimed he had more evidence against the Israelis.

Bellemare demanded that Hezbollah hand over all information relevant to his investigation. His office said it had received only the six DVDs that Nasrallah already had aired, but none of "the rest of the evidence" he claimed to possess.

Israel has dismissed the Iranian-backed Hezbollah's repeated claims as "ridiculous." U.N. investigators have been probing Hariri's killing for years but have never pointed to possible Israeli involvement — which Hezbollah says is a sign of bias.

The group has said it expects some of its members to face indictments by the Netherlands-based tribunal investigating Hariri's assassination but dismisses the panel as an "Israeli project."

Hariri was an influential businessman who was once a close Syrian ally but had been trying to limit Syria's influence in Lebanon in the last few months before his death.

Initial suspicion for his murder fell on Syria, and four pro-Syrian Lebanese army generals were detained without charge for four years before they were released for lack of evidence.