U.N.: Syrian, Lebanese Officials Involved in Hariri Murder
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The German investigator appointed by the United Nations to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has issued a report, and it implicates both Syrian and Lebanese security officials. NPR's Corey Flintoff has been following this story.
And, Corey, does the UN report name names?
COREY FLINTOFF reporting:
Well, it does, Robert, although some of these named suspects are people that the investigators have already identified in the course of the investigation. They include a Lebanese brigadier general named Mustafa Hamdan and three other Lebanese generals, who are already under arrest in Lebanon. This Hamdan is significant because he was the commander of the presidential guards at the time of the Hariri assassination, so that places him close to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. And the report also names a Syrian general; his name is Rustom Ghazali, who was the last Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon before the Syrians were forced to withdraw. There's also a central figure named. He's a man called Ahmed Abdul Ahl(ph). He was a member of a Lebanese militant group with ties to Lebanon.
SIEGEL: Now what...
FLINTOFF: With ties to Syria, pardon me.
SIEGEL: With ties to Syria. What sort of evidence does the UN investigator cite to support naming these people?
FLINTOFF: Well, that's interesting. Much of the evidence here involves telephone records. For one thing, the report says that both the Syrian and the Lebanese intelligence services were tapping Hariri's phone. And supposedly a telecommunications antenna was found at the scene of the car bombing that killed him last February, along with about 20 other people. The report says that mobile phone records show that the man I mentioned earlier, this Ahmed Abdul Ahl, allegedly had phone conversations with all the important figures in the investigation. And it particularly says that he made a call to the mobile phone of President Lahoud very shortly before the car bombing took place.
There's also a mention of a Syrian witness living in Lebanon, who allegedly claimed that Syrian-Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to kill Hariri about two weeks after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. That was in September of last year. And then Syria, of course, withdrew after about 20 years of dominating Lebanese politics.
SIEGEL: Yes, Hariri, a former prime minister, was making a political comeback, and his issue was Syria out of Lebanon. Now...
SIEGEL: ...beyond implicating Syria in the assassination, as I understand it, the UN investigation also implicates Syrian officials in a cover-up.
FLINTOFF: Yes. And the report says that cover-up could extend at least to Syria's foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa. It accuses al-Sharaa of lying in a letter that he sent to the investigating commission. It also said that Syria's government, while it cooperated in form, it did not cooperate in substance with this investigation. For instance, it said that Syrian officials would not allow the commission to interview witnesses outside of Syria, which means that they were--could conceivably be subject to intimidation.
SIEGEL: Now when speaking of Syria, if one says at least as high as Sharaa, there's only one level higher than Sharaa; that's the president of Syria.
FLINTOFF: Right, Bashar al-Assad. And he two weeks ago said very firmly that there was no involvement by Syria at all.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Corey.
FLINTOFF: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Corey Flintoff reporting on the UN investigative report today implicating both Lebanese and Syrian officials in the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.
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