06/15/2006, 00.00
LEBANON – UNITED NATIONS – SYRIA
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Possible link between Hariri murder and 14 other attacks, says Brammertz

by Yousef Hourany
United Nations is set to extend Judge Brammertz's mandate by a year. Belgian judge is satisfied with Syrian attitude.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – There are possible links between the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 14 other bomb blasts that have occurred in the country since October 2004, this according to Serge Brammertz, head of the UN commission investigating the Hariri affair. The 43-year-old Belgian magistrate, who spoke before the UN Security Council last night, will see his mandate extended by another year today.

In his first months on the job, the judge has gained the respect of all parties involved, especially after presenting his second report, described as "professional, scientific and objective" by Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh and positive by Syrian authorities.

Diplomatic sources expect the Security Council to broaden the mandate of the UN commission to include acts of violence carried out in Lebanon since October 2004 up and including the murder of lawmaker and journalist Gibran Tueini,

This possibility is likely if judge Brammertz's words to the council are taken into consideration. In fact, he noted a common thread linking the February 14, 2005, attack that killed Rafik Hariri, and 14 other attacks, and asked the international community to lend its assistance to Lebanon's justice system in order to determine responsibilities and restore the situation. Most people in the country, he said, are tired of the smell of blood.

Judge Brammertz said he was satisfied with the attitude of Syrian authorities, which was one of openness to cooperation. He stated that his meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Vice President Farouq Shaa'rah were constructive and that he interrogated 16 Syrian officials to good avail.

Boutros Asaker, secretary general in Lebanon's Foreign Affairs Ministry, expressed his high regards for the objectivity and sense of responsibility judge Brammertz put into his work

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Makdad, who is in New York, renewed his government's pledge to work with the international commission of inquiry.

Syria's press has also highlighted the objectivity and professionalism of Brammertz's report, but criticised statements by "Syria's enemies, who, according to the daily Tehran (October), are in "instruments in the hands of Israel".

Here the obvious reference is to statements made by the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who faulted Syria for failing to cooperate fully with Brammertz, and expressed the hope that the commission of inquiry might complete its mission and finally shed light on Hariri's murder.

Techrin also carried excerpts from Makdad's interview with the al-Arabia TV network in which he reaffirmed his country's non involvement in the Hariri murder, whom he described as a"friend of Syria", and reiterated his criticism of Judge Brammertz's predecessor, German magistrate Detlev Mehlis, who, in his view, "compromised the inquiry by starting from an anti-Syrian position".

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