The death of Syria’s interior minister has renewed speculation about Damscus’s alleged involvement in the murder of Lebanon’s former leader. Officially, Ghazi Kanaan committed suicide, but some wonder whether his death was part of a plot to remove traces possibly linking Syria to the killing of Rafik al-Hariri.
Kanaan was the feared head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon for 20 years. His apparent suicide comes just a week before the UN presents the findings of its probe into Hariri’s murder. That event set off anti-Syrian protests and led to Damascus withdrawing its troops. But some western leaders believe Syria is still too closely involved. “I think it’s very important for Syria to understand that the free world respects Lebanese democracy and expects Syria to honour that democracy,” US President George W Bush said. Shortly before the news of Kanaan’s death broke, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad repeated in an interview with an American channel that he could never have ordered Hariri’s killing last February. He said that if any Syrians were found to have been implicated in the report by the UN’s chief investigator Detlev Mehlis, they would be punished. On the streets of Lebanon, few shed tears for Kanaan. Some suggested he must have been expecting bad news from the UN probe. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals are already in prison awaiting trial on murder charges in connection with the slaying of Hariri.