UN Hariri report lauds Syrian cooperation

The fourth report by the United Nations international investigation commission looking into the killing of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri has credited Syria - which has been linked to his assassination - for its cooperation with the probe, and supported the request of the Lebanese government to extend the mandate of the commission by another year.

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By  Massoud A. Derhally Published  June 18, 2006

The fourth report by the United Nations international investigation commission looking into the killing of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri has credited Syria - which has been linked to his assassination - for its cooperation with the probe, and supported the request of the Lebanese government to extend the mandate of the commission by another year. The report, delivered by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said “considerable progress” had been made in the inquiry into the assassination, which killed Hariri and 22 others on February 14, 2005. Unlike his predecessor German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who delivered two earlier reports that implicated Syrian officials and intelligence services in the killings, Brammertz has remained extremely tight-lipped throughout the investigation and noted in his report “cooperation with Syria has further developed,” citing interviews with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Vice President Farouq Al-Shara. The Commission noted it had interviewed six witnesses in Syria and that “Syria has responded to all of the commission’s requests, and did so in a timely manner, and in some instances comprehensive responses were provided.” The report also added “full and unconditional cooperation from Syria to the commission remains crucial.” With respect to the methodology behind the bombing, the report said an improvised explosive device (IED) “was most likely used above the ground” and that the evidence pointed to a Mitsubishi truck which is likely to have carried 1,200 kilograms of TNT. The report said the size of the bomb was indicative of a keenness to ensure success and elevated the attack to almost “guarantee level,” even if Hariri’s vehicle was not hit directly. The detonation of the bomb was “most likely initiated by an individual within or immediately in front of the truck,” explained the report. The Commission said it had recovered 27 parts of a male person, who it said based on forensic evidence is likely to have detonated the bomb. The report refrained from defining the said individual as a suicide bomber because it was yet to determine if the person detonated the device “willingly or was coerced into doing so.” Brammertz dispelled any notion that Ahmad Abu Adass, an alleged Islamist, who appeared in a video that aired on Al Jazeera directly after the assassination in which he claimed responsibility, had actually played a role in the killing. The prosecutor said, “at this stage, as a result of extensive forensic analysis and other information and evidence collected to date, and pending final DNA results from recently collected evidence at the crime scene, there is no evidence to suggest that Ahmad Abu Adass is the individual who initiated the detonation of the IED, as state in his claim of responsibility.” He added, “Nor is there any evidence to suggest that Ahmed Abu Adass was present at the crime scene, in any capacity.” According to the Commission there may be more than one reason behind the killing of Hariri and it is examining several scenarios. “The Commission is investigating political motives, personal vendettas, financial circumstances, and extremist ideologies as well as any combination of the aforementioned in developing its hypotheses regarding the possible motives of those who commissioned the crime,” it said. The Commission said that 14 other explosions, which killed or injured prominent Lebanese personalities, could be potentially important to the Hariri investigation and that it can contribute to the outcome of these investigations. Brammertz said the Commission is considering the development of a “witness protection program” to bolster the investigative work of the 179 investigators, analysts and translators. The UN probe is expected to be concluded by the coming fall and eventually lead to an international tribunal responsible for trying those implicated in the killing of Hariri.

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