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Syria Remains Defiant Over Hariri Inquiry

January 22, 2006|From Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria — President Bashar Assad indicated Saturday that he was rejecting a second request by U.N. investigators to interview him about the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, declaring that Syria would not bow to international pressure.

Assad's uncompromising stance against the United Nations was certain to further heighten tension with the United States and complicate the seven-month inquiry into the Feb. 14 bombing that killed Rafik Hariri and 22 others on a Beirut street.

"We should not give up our national sovereignty even if the circumstance requires that we fight for our country. We must be prepared for that," Assad said.

The U.N. commission investigating Hariri's assassination has implicated top Lebanese and Syrian security officials. Syria rejected the findings and tried to discredit commission witnesses.

In a speech to the Arab Lawyers Union, however, Assad pledged to cooperate with the inquiry. The U.N. has said Syria has not been forthcoming.

"We will continue to cooperate with the investigation currently and in the future in order to find the truth," he said.

The assassination led to international pressure that forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after decades of political and military control.

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