03/15/2006, 00.00
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UN commission to see Assad about Hariri assassination

The announcement was made as inquiry chief hands his first report to Security Council. The report withholds information that might jeopardise the investigation and acknowledges greater Syrian cooperation. None the less, it also points to evidence of Syrian involvement.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The UN inquiry into last year's February 14 assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri and 22 other people has found Syria more co-operative and has made progress in identifying the actual perpetrators of the crime, those who instigated the act as well as those in between who "enabled" the conspiracy to succeed, this according to the 25-page report prepared by the United Nations team headed by Serge Brammertz and handed to the Security Council on Tuesday.

This is the UN commission's third report and the first by Belgian judge Brammertz who stated he was not releasing facts, names and details so as not to jeopardise the inquiry cognizant of the impact his approach might have on Security Council's decisions.

The paucity of details explains the relative disappointment in Lebanon and the satisfaction expressed in Syria. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad for example was quoted in pro-government paper Al-Thawra as saying that the report was realistic and professionally drafted.

In fact, except for acknowledging Syria's greater availability and the announcement that Mr Brammertz will be able to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Vice President Farouq al-Shara, nothing in the report allays the suspicions expressed by Mr Brammertz's predecessor, German judge Detlev Mehlis, about Damascus' involvement,

For instance, the report does not accept Syria's demand to Judge Mehlis for a special deal. It also refers to the ongoing investigation into the role played by the al-Ahbash, a Lebanese sect that, according to Mehlis' report, has historical ties to the Syrian regime. A member of the sect phoned Lebanon's pro-Syrian Émile Lahoud as well as the head of Lebanon's secret services, who is now in jail, from the site of the February 14 attack that killed Hariri. Brammertz wants to know more about those phone calls.

The commission is closer to having a global picture of how the attack was prepared; how participants to the crime carried out their tasks; what were the tasks before, during and after the attack; and what their overall modus operandi was.

Significant results are being examined as to the communications that occurred on that day, which included apparent interference in the country's telecommunications network.

Although it did not elaborate, the commission said that progress was also being made in identifying the conspiracy's field operatives and the people who "enabled" the conspiracy to succeed, i.e. those in between the actual perpetrators of the crime and those who instigated it.

The report also said that insofar as the instigators are concerned the probe must also look into the role played by Lebanon's al-Madina Bank and its ex-Security Chief.
For now it is too soon to know whether the 14 attacks that have occurred in recent months in the country are linked in any way to one another or the Hariri affair.

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See also
Possible link between Hariri murder and 14 other attacks, says Brammertz
Ahmadinejad arrives in Damascus, Brammertz in Beirut
Mehlis leaves, UN probe into Assad's role continues
Syria to reject UN request to interview Assad
Charges against Damascus raise tensions in Beirut


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