UN investigator wants to interview Syrians: paper
BEIRUT (Reuters) – The chief U.N. investigator examining
the killing of a former Lebanese prime minister has requested
interviews with six senior Syrian intelligence officers, a
paper reported on Sunday quoting Lebanese sources.
Detlev Mehlis made the requests to the Syrian government
via the United Nations to question the officers, who include
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law Assef
Shawkat, the pan-Arab daily newspaper al-Hayat said.
It said that Mehlis wanted the interviews to take place in
Lebanon, not in Syria.
Mehlis, the German prosecutor trying to identify the
killers of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, has
complained that Syrian security figures interviewed in Damascus
last month appeared to give only prepared responses.
The U.N. Security Council demanded October 31 that Syria
cooperate fully with Mehlis’s inquiry into the Beirut bombing
that killed Hariri and 22 others or face “further action.”
Mehlis, who said in an interim report in October that
“converging evidence” pointed to Syrian and Lebanese
involvement in the assassination, has also accused Damascus of
failing to cooperate properly with his mission.
Quoting unidentified Lebanese sources, al-Hayat said the
men Mehlis has asked to question also include Maj. Gen. Bahjat
Suleiman, former head of Syria’s internal intelligence and
Rustom Ghazali, Syria’s last chief of intelligence in Lebanon.
A Syrian official told Reuters on Sunday Damascus had not
received any correspondence from the U.N. investigation
commission yet and reiterated that Syria is willing to
cooperate with the investigators in a “positive and flexible
The Syrian ambassador to London told Reuters in an
interview on Friday that U.N. investigators would be allowed to
question Syrian officials in Damascus on their own.
But al-Hayat said Mehlis, who won fresh powers from the
Security Council to carry on his probe, wanted to question the
men at the commission’s headquarters at the hilltop Monteverde
Hotel east of Beirut.
Damascus has come under fierce international pressure since
Hariri’s February 14 killing. It has already had to pull its
troops out of neighboring Lebanon after a 29-year presence.
The United States, France and Britain sponsored the
Security Council resolution after Mehlis concluded in the
preliminary report that Hariri’s assassination could not have
been plotted without the knowledge of Syrian security officials
and their Lebanese allies. Mehlis’s final report is due
Syria denies any hand in the killing and dismisses Mehlis’s
report as politicized. The resolution obliges Damascus to
detain any suspects named by Mehlis and make them available to
Iran said on Sunday it would stand by Syria against any
possible U.N. Security Council sanctions over the
“Definitely we will support Syria as a friend,” Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news
conference. Asefi said putting pressure on Syria, Iran’s
staunchest ally in the Middle East, was “unacceptable.”
(Additional reporting by Inal Ersan in Damascus and Parisa
Hafezi in Tehran)