FBI to investigate Lebanon explosions

FBI agents on Wednesday joined in the investigation into the latest of a spate of explosions in Lebanon, a move certain to unnerve Syria as it comes under stepped up U.S. pressure to stay out of its neighbor's business.

Until now, Lebanon had shied away from seeking direct U.S. assistance, although FBI agents have investigated a previous bombing in June and a U.N. probe is underway in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

But the difficulty the government was facing in identifying those behind the explosions since Hariri's murder in February prompted Beirut to look to Washington for help, the AP reports.

Not a single arrest has been made in connection with the blasts.

On Wednesday, FBI agents examined the site where a bomb tore threw a car Sunday, maiming prominent anchorwoman and popular talk show host May Chidiac of a popular TV station which had taken a line opposed to Syria.

Three men arrived at the site of Sunday's explosion near the port city of Jounieh north of Beirut to examine Chidiac's bombed out vehicle. Wearing gloves, one sifted through debris and collected fragments while another shot pictures as an accompanying women took notes.

A U.S. Embassy official declined to discuss the matter Wednesday, other than to say that "the U.S. is happy to respond positively to requests from the government of Lebanon." The official did not wish to be named, but U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said Tuesday the U.S. team was to assist the Lebanese in the investigation and provide technical expertise.

Syria, which was forced to withdraw its army from Lebanon in April, has come under intense pressure from the United States. Washington has warned Damascus to stop interfering in Lebanese affairs. Syrian officials also are the target of the U.N. probe into Hariri's assassination.

Meanwhile, the chief U.N. investigator into Hariri's assassination, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, met with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Details of their discussions were not disclosed, but Mehlis met late Tuesday with Justice Minister Charles Rizk.


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