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UN Hariri assassination report implicates Syria, Lebanon

[JURIST] A report, submitted [JURIST report; UN News report] Thursday to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on the results of an independent UN investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] links high-ranking Syrian officials and top pro-Syrian Lebanese officials to the crime. According to the 60-page report [PDF text] prepared by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, the evidence suggests that both Syria and Lebanon were involved in the assassination plot which was planned for several months. The commission also concludes that it is highly unlikely that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were not aware of the plan to assassinate Hariri. According to the report's executive summary:

7. It is the Commission's view that the assassination of 14 February 2005 was carried out by a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities. The crime had been prepared over the course of several months. For this purpose, the timing and location of Mr. Rafik Hariri's movements had been monitored and the itineraries of his convoy recorded in detail.

8. Building on the findings of the Commission and Lebanese investigations to date and on the basis of the material and documentary evidence collected, and the leads pursued until now, there is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act. It is a well known fact that Syrian Military Intelligence had a pervasive presence in Lebanon at the least until the withdrawal of the Syrian forces pursuant to resolution 1559. The former senior security officials of Lebanon were their appointees. Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.

9. It is the Commission's conclusion that the continuing investigation should be carried forward by the appropriate Lebanese judicial and security authorities, who have proved during the investigation that with international assistance and support, they can move ahead and at times take the lead in an effective and professional manner. At the same time, the Lebanese authorities should look into all the case's ramifications including bank transactions. The 14 February explosion needs to be assessed clearly against the sequence of explosions which preceded and followed it, since there could be links between some, if not all, of them.
Syria's government has dismissed the findings as "far from the truth" and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud denied allegations in the report that a suspect said to be involved in the assassination called Lahoud minutes before the bomb exploded that killed Hariri. Hariri's family is calling for those implicated in the report to be tried by an international court. Mehlis is scheduled to brief the UN Security Council next week on the commission's report; the commission was established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1595 [PDF text]. BBC News has more.

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