AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - An international court published on Thursday an arrest warrant for a fifth suspect in the 2005 bombing on the Beirut waterfront that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others, almost tipping the country into civil war.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague said judges had secretly indicted Hassan Habib Merhi on July 31 but had given the Lebanese government time to attempt to arrest the suspect before making the warrant public.
None of the four suspects previously indicted is in the court's custody. The four men, members of Hezbollah, a political party and paramilitary group that is powerful in Lebanon, are being tried in absentia by the court. They include Mustafa Amine Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah figure.
The Shi'ite Muslim group denies any role in killing Hariri, a billionaire Sunni Muslim politician, and says the suspects will never be handed over to the court, which it says is a tool of U.S. and Israeli interests.
"The Office of the Prosecutor continues its efforts to fully investigate and prosecute those alleged to be responsible for the attack on 14 February 2005," said Norman Farrell, the court's prosecutor.
The tribunal was set up in 2009 at the urging of Western governments and with the support of the then Lebanese government to investigate Hariri's killing, but Lebanese support for the tribunal has since been lukewarm.
(This story was corrected in first paragraph to make clear Hariri was not PM at time of his death)
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; editing by Gareth Jones)