Thursday, October 20, 2005

BREAKING NEWS-U.N. Report: Syria and Lebanon Involved in Killing Rafik Hariri

AP reports:

A U.N. investigation concluded that high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese security officials were involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, according to a report released Thursday.

The report by chief investigator Detlev Mehlis said Hariri's Feb. 14 assassination was so complex that it would be difficult to imagine that the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services didn't know about it.

The decision to assassinate Hariri "could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security official and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services," the report said.

Mehlis wrote that the two nations' intelligence services kept tabs on Hariri by wiretapping his phone constantly.

The 53-page report said that the investigation is not complete and must be continued with Lebanese judicial and security authorities in the lead.

Several lines of investigation still need to be pursued, he said. They include jamming devices in Hariri's convoy that were functioning at the time of the bombing. It appears there was interference with a telecommunication antenna at the crime scene at the time Hariri was killed in a massive car bomb, Mehlis wrote.

US reaction

NY Times reports:

...The United States has sought support from allies in the region to isolate Syria and force Mr. Assad to cease supporting and financing anti-Israel militias and stop what Washington believes is a willingness by Damascus to infiltrate insurgents across its border with Iraq.

John R. Bolton, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, noting that the Mehlis report was "bigger than a breadbox," said there would be no substantive comment from the United States until Friday.

"We have just received the report and we're going to look at it very carefully tonight, evaluate it and decide on the basis of that evaluation and consultation what the next steps will be," he said. "We've already been in consultations considering the various possibilities."

Diplomats from the United States, Britain and France have been discussing their options for taking action against Syria, and the issue will be considered next week by the Security Council. Mr. Mehlis is scheduled to give council members a briefing on his report on Tuesday.

Among the options are two resolutions that would step up the pressure on Damascus to end actions that destabilize the region, according to a European diplomat briefed on discussions about the subject between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Jacques Chirac of France in Paris last week.

He said one resolution would be put forward under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter, which calls for forceful measures like economic and diplomatic sanctions, and another under Chapter VI, which calls for solutions through negotiation and mediation...