The United Nations commission probing the killing of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri has asked to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara.
It also wants to speak to Syria’s former vice-president, Abdul Halim Khaddam, who resigned in June and now lives in exile in Paris. The UN investigation has already implicated Syrian officials, but Damascus has strongly denied any involvement. In an interview aired last week, Khaddam claimed: “Assad told me he had delivered some very, very harsh words to Hariri … something like ‘I will crush anyone who tries to disobey us’.” Syria’s ruling Ba’ath party has expelled Khaddam, who would not speculate on who ordered the killing of Rafik al-Hariri. The assassination in February, 2005 sparked mass anti-Syrian protests in Beirut, forcing Damascus to bow to world pressure and withdraw its troops from Lebanon. A UN Security Council resolution in October threatened Damascus with unspecified action if it fails to cooperate with the investigation.