Leidschendam (Netherlands): A panel of judges at a UN-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will consider whether to stage a trial in absentia for four Hezbollah members accused in the slaying.

The suspects were indicted earlier this year, but Hezbollah has refused to arrest them and send them for trial in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's purpose-built courtroom.

The court said in a statement on Monday that a pretrial judge preparing the case has asked trial judges "to determine whether proceedings in absentia should be initiated" against the four men.

Iranian-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah denies involvement in the February 14, 2005, truck  bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others, including the suicide bomber, in Beirut.

(Agencies)