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UN Hariri probe chief visits Damascus

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BEIRUT, Feb 23 (Reuters) The chief UN investigator into the assassination of a former Lebanese Prime Minister headed to Damascus today for talks on Syrian cooperation with the inquiry, Lebanese security sources said.

They said Serge Brammertz was driven in a heavily guarded convoy across the Lebanese border into Syria for his first visit to the Syrian capital since taking over from Detlev Mehlis last month.

A UN spokeswoman had no comment on the report.

The United Nations has demanded full Syrian cooperation with the investigation into the February 14 2005 killing of Rafik al-Hariri.

The Security Council has threatened Syria with further action -- possibly sanctions -- if it does not do so.

Belgian prosecutor Brammertz was expected to hold talks with Syria's new Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem, on cooperation.

Syria had refused requests by Mehlis to question President Bashar al-Assad on the murder but allowed security officials to be questioned in Vienna.

Mehlis had implicated senior Syrian security officials and their Lebanese allies in the killing. Four Lebanese generals are under arrest in Lebanon.

Large protests in Beirut accusing Damascus of the murder forced Syria to bow to international pressure in April and end three decades of military presence in its smaller neighbour.

REUTERS CS SSC1316

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