Australians hunted over Hariri death
Twelve people wanted over the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri are believed to be in Australia.
02/18/05 "SMH" - - Lebanon's Justice Minister Adnan Addoum said authorities had contacted Interpol in Sydney over the departure from Beirut to Australia of 12 men - most bearded - on Monday, the day of the bombing that killed Hariri and 16 others.
Addoum said the 12 were among 14 men with Australian citizenship who tried to leave Lebanon, but two missed the flight for unknown reasons. Their whereabouts are unknown.
Interpol has agreed to interrogate the 12 in relation to the killing, Addoum said, adding that three have agreed to come forward.
Addoum did not elaborate and it was unclear what connection, if any, the men might have had in the attack.
No credible claims of responsibility have emerged, but the interior minister has said a suicide bomber backed by "international parties" may have killed Hariri.
Some also suggest rogue Syrian intelligence operatives or factions among Lebanon's different religious groups may be responsible.
Reports earlier this week said Australian authorities were helping Lebanon investigate the murder.
Lebanon's Syrian-backed regime is facing escalating calls to stand down over the death and Washington issued more stark warnings to Damascus.
Banks and shops in Lebanon reopened for business after a three-day mourning period for Hariri, whose murder in a massive bomb blast in Beirut sent shockwaves through the country and added to tensions with its political masters in Syria.
Lebanon's anti-Damascus opposition was to hold a meeting to try to rally a mass public mobilisation after the killing of the man behind the country's post-war revival, while Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud was to hold a cabinet meeting.
"The regime ... should take the political initiative of opening up to the opposition by declaring its readiness to meet its demand in forming a special government to run and supervise the legislative elections (due in May)," said prominent former prime minister Salim Hoss.
Sixteen people were killed and about 100 more wounded in the massive bomb blast that ripped through Hariri's motorcade on Beirut's seafront on Monday, causing the worst carnage seen in Beirut since the 1975-1990 civil war.