Lebanon arrests man named in UN probe of PM murder
Suspect said to have called Lebanese president minutes before PM killed; Syria: UN may be allowed to question officials.
Syria: We may allow UN to question officials in Hariri probeSyria said on Saturday it might allow UN investigators to quiz Syrian officials and denied it had not cooperated fully with the probe into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
"If there is any demand coming from the commission we will discuss it with the commission and we might agree," Foreign Ministry official Riad al-Daoudi told a news conference when asked whether Syria would allow further questioning of officials.
The UN report said on Thursday the decision to kill Hariri "could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials" colluding with their counterparts in Lebanon.
▪Click here for analysis on the fallout of the report.
The report said the Syrian authorities, after initially hesitating to help, had cooperated "to a limited degree". But several individuals had tried to mislead investigators "by giving false or inaccurate statements," it said.
"Everything that was in the report in relation with not cooperating had no basis in truth," Dauodi said, reiterating Syrian charges that the report had political motives.
"We will cooperate but we'll see what are the boundaries of this cooperation and its elements," he said.
Daoudi read a Foreign Ministry statement denying Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara and his deputy Walid al-Mualem had tried to mislead the investigation.
Daoudi, who is a legal adviser at the ministry, had led the Syrian side in talks with chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis and attended the questioning of several Syrian officials by the UN team last month.
Syria: Report politically motivatedOn Friday, Syria's information minister said the UN report was politically motivated and untrue.
"It seems the report is completely political and a political statement directed towards Syria," Mahdi Dakhl-Allah told Al-Jazeera television, in the first comment by a Syrian minister on the findings.
"The report is far from the truth. It was not professional and will not arrive at the truth but will be part of a deception and great tension in this region," he said.
A pro-Syrian Palestinian leader also rejected on Friday accusations in the UN report of involvement in Hariri's assassination.
"We completely reject the implication of any of our factions in this case," said Ahmed Jibril, head of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP).
"We say we were surprised with the ... report, which tried to implicate some of our factions by saying they gave some support to Lebanese security leaders," he told Al Arabiya television.
Mehlis was careful not to assign blame, but cites witness testimony that strongly implicates several officials as conspiring to assassinate Hariri. Lebanon has already arrested four of them, all Lebanese generals close to Syria.
Lahoud was battling to remain in power as of Friday morning, as two members of the Lebanese parliament called on him to resign from his post.
Mehlis said the leads the UN has found must be followed up before all the details of Hariri's killing will be known. He asked for more time to work with Lebanese investigators, and in a letter accompanying the report, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he would extend Mehlis' investigation until December 15.
UN admits to deleting names of top ranking Syrians from findingsDeepening the impression of a strong Syrian connection to the killing, chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis acknowledged Friday that he deleted references from the report implicating two relatives of Syria's president, raising questions about whether the UN tried to soften the inquiry's findings.
In an embarrassment for the UN, a version of the report sent to journalists late Thursday included text that had been deleted for the final draft.
The most significant change came in a paragraph that cited a witness as saying Assad's brother, Maher Assad, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, were among those who decided to kill Hariri.
Mehlis told reporters Friday that he deleted the names when he learned his report to the UN Security Council would be made public. He said he did not want to suggest the men were guilty when they had not faced trial.