A former top member of Syria’s political inner circle is claiming that the country’s President Bashar al-Assad threatened Lebanon’s ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri only months before Hariri’s death in a truck bombing in Beirut.Abdul Halim Khaddam, who was Syria’s Vice-President until he resigned in June, said in an interview with Al Arabiya TV that the Syria leader had told him he’d “delivered some very, very harsh words to Hariri, something like ‘I will crush anyone who tries to disobey us’.” Rafik Hariri’s assassination in February was followed by street protests in Lebanon and strong international pressure. That led to a withdrawal of Syria’s forces from the country after a military presence lasting nearly 30 years. Khaddam said in the interview that if the Syrian intelligence services had killed Hariri, it could not have happened without Assad’s knowledge. A UN investigation has implicated senior Syrian officials in the assassination, but Syria denies any involvement. Khaddam refused to speculate on who was behind the assassination. He said: “We must wait” for the outcome of the United Nations investigation. The comments in the TV interview are likely to intensify pressure on the Syrian leadership and have led to speculation that Khaddam may be positioning himself to try and replace Assad.