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Syria Moves to Investigate Assassination

It says a new panel will look into the Lebanese ex-premier's slaying and cooperate with others.

October 30, 2005|From Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria — President Bashar Assad on Saturday ordered the creation of a judicial committee to investigate the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, as Syria continued its scramble to ease growing international pressure.

The United Nations investigation into the Feb. 14 bombing death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has linked top Syrian and Lebanese security officials to the killing and said that Damascus had been uncooperative in the inquiry.

By issuing a decree to set up the special judicial committee to investigate the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut, Assad appeared to be responding to U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis, who last week called for the Syrians to conduct their own investigation to "fill in the gaps" about who had orchestrated the assassination.

The official SANA news agency said the committee would be made up of Syria's prosecutor-general, the military prosecutor and a judge to be named by the justice minister. They will be ordered to question Syrian "civilians and military personnel on all matters relating to the U.N. investigation commission's mission."

In announcing the Syrian inquiry into Hariri's slaying, Assad said the commission would cooperate with Mehlis' investigation and Lebanese judicial authorities. The Lebanese have arrested and charged four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals in the assassination.

The United States, France and Britain are working on a Security Council resolution that is scheduled to be unveiled Monday and is expected to threaten Syria with sanctions if it fails to cooperate with the U.N. inquiry.

The draft reportedly calls for Syria to arrest any official or civilian that U.N. investigators consider a suspect in the killing and allow the detainee to be questioned either outside Syria or without Syrian officials present.

Syria has roundly denied involvement in Hariri's killing.

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