UN report rocks ruling elites in Syria, Lebanon
A United Nations investigation headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis has identified political and military leaders as suspects in the Hariri assassination, Western diplomatic sources said.
The report, relayed on Thursday to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, determined that leading Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers lied to UN investigators and could be subject to prosecution.
The UN investigation would also examine the purported suicide of Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan, a major suspect in the Hariri killing, Middle East Newsline reported. Kanaan's family was said to have accused the Assad regime of killing Kanaan to prevent him from cooperating with the Mehlis probe.
The report concluded that four Lebanese generals, now in detention in Beirut, helped plan the Hariri assassination. The Lebanese generals were also said to have coordinated with Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh, then head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon.
"Gen. Jamil Al Sayyed, according to the witness, cooperated closely with Gen. Mustapha Hamdan and Gen. Raymond Azar in the preparation of the assassination of Mr. Hariri," the report said. "He also coordinated with Gen. Ghazali — and, among others, people from Mr. Ahmed Jibril in Lebanon."
"Gen. Hamdan and Gen. Azar provided logistical support, providing money, telephones, cars, walkie-talkies, pagers, weapons, ID-cards etc," the report continued. "Those who knew of the crime in advance were among others, Nasser Kandil and Gen. Ali Al-Hajj."
The UN identified Jibril, commander of the Syrian-sponsored Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, as one of the plotters. Jibril, financed by Iran, has been based in Damascus and maintains military bases in eastern and central Lebanon.
Another leading suspect in the Hariri assassination was identified as Ahmad Abdel Al. Abdel Al, a Lebanese Sunni Muslim cleric, has been leading figure in the Association of Islamic Philanthropic Projects, or Al Ahbash.
Based on testimony from 400 Lebanese and Syrians, the report said Hariri was threatened by Syrian President Bashar Assad in late 2004. The report said Assad was angered over Hariri's opposition to a constitutional amendment that would grant Lahoud another term in office.
"If you think that [French] President [Jacques] Chirac and you are going to run Lebanon, you are mistaken," the report quoted Assad as telling Hariri. "It is not going to happen. President Lahoud is me. Whatever I tell him, he follows suit. This extension [of Lahoud's term] is to happen or else I will break Lebanon over your head and [Druse leader] Walid Jumblat's. So, you either do as you are told or we will get you and your family wherever you are."
The 54-page report detailed the evasions and lies by leading Lebanese and Syrian security and intelligence officers. Ghazaleh, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shaara as well as Assad adviser Walid Mualem were said to have provided false statements to UN investigators regarding their meetings with Hariri.
"After an initial read, the results are clearly troubling and will require further discussion with the international community," U.S. envoy to the UN John Bolton said.
In a letter to the president of the UN Security Council, Annan said he plans to extend the mandate of the investigatory commission until Dec. 15.
Annan said the extension was requested by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
The diplomats said Lebanon and Syria were bracing for a storm over the next few weeks as the Security Council considers additional resolutions against Damascus. The diplomats said they expect a wave of Syrian-aligned attacks in Lebanon in a campaign to intimidate the Siniora government.
"The UN could end up declaring leading members of the Syrian and Lebanese governments as criminals sought for prosecution," a diplomat said.
"In Lebanon, this will probably lead to the resignation of the remaining pro-Syrian politicians or army officers. In Syria, it could mean severe tension in the Assad regime, which fears the exposure of its intelligence network."
Mehlis's report urged that over the next few weeks leading Syrian intelligence officers, including Assad's brother-in-law Assaf Shawkat, undergo UN interrogation outside of their country. The interim report also identified a Palestinian insurgency leader harbored by Syria as a leading suspect in the Hariri killing.
"If the investigation is to be completed, it is essential that the government of Syria fully cooperate with the investigating authorities, including by allowing for interviews to be held outside Syria and for interviewees not to be accompanied by Syrian officials," the report said.
"Many leads point directly towards Syrian security officials as being involved with the assassination," the report added.