New evidence cited of Syria link to killing

Published Dec. 13, 2005|Updated Dec. 13, 2005

A U.N. inquiry into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister has unearthed evidence that strengthens its suspicion of high-level Syrian and Lebanese involvement in the slaying, a report said Monday.

The report accused Syria of trying to hinder the inquiry into Rafik Hariri's Feb. 14 slaying. The finding, released the same day that a leading anti-Syrian activist and witness in the U.N. investigation was killed in a similar Beirut bombing, raises the threat of Security Council action against Damascus - possibly including sanctions.

The team led by the German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis said Syria had arrested and threatened relatives of one witness, Husam Taher Husam, shortly before he recanted earlier testimony last month.

"Preliminary investigation leads to the conclusion that Mr. Husam is being manipulated by the Syrian authorities," the report said.

In October, Mehlis' team had released findings that implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in Hariri's slaying. Syria denied involvement and accused Mehlis of bias. The Security Council then passed a resolution demanding that Syria cooperate fully and threatening unspecified further measures.

Mehlis was to brief the council today. Council diplomats would not say what the next step will be.

Algeria's Ambassador Abdallah Baali said that Mehlis' report showed Syria had generally cooperated despite some initial problems. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton was more critical, pointing to witness manipulation as an example of continued resistance.