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U.N. to Query Syrian Officials in Hariri Probe

November 27, 2005|From Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria has agreed to allow its officials to be questioned at U.N. offices in Vienna by investigators probing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a top diplomat said Friday.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Mualem told reporters that the breakthrough in negotiations with the United Nations came after Syria received "guarantees concerning the rights of the individuals" to be questioned and reassurances that its sovereignty would be respected.

A U.N. commission mandated by the Security Council is investigating the death of Hariri, who was killed Feb. 14 with 22 other people in a massive Beirut truck bombing. The commission issued an interim report last month implicating Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor confirmed the questioning would take place in Vienna.

Hariri's assassination provoked mass demonstrations in Lebanon calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops, who had been stationed in the country since the second year of the 1975-90 civil war. It also heightened international pressure for a withdrawal.

Syria removed its troops in April. In May-June balloting, Lebanon elected its first parliament in many years that did not have a pro-Syrian majority.

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