SYRIA: UN investigator meets with president
DAMASCUS, 26 April 2006 (IRIN) - UN investigator Serge Brammertz’s meeting with President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday indicated Syria’s “full cooperation” with the ongoing investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a local analyst said.
“The meeting shows two things: that Syria is convinced of its innocence in the crime, and that Syria is committed to UN resolutions and will implement them totally,” said political analyst George Jabbour after the meeting.
According to official news agency SANA, Brammertz arrived in Damascus on 25 April from neighbouring Lebanon and stayed in the capital for nearly six hours before returning to Beirut. In that time, Brammertz met separately with Assad and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa. The visit was the investigator’s second to Syria since January, when he took over the inquiry from his predecessor, German prosecutor Detliv Mehlis.
In an initial report to the UN Security Council on 15 March, Brammertz had confirmed ongoing Syrian cooperation, noting that he had secured agreements to interview both al-Assad and al-Sharaa. Last month, Assad said in an interview that he expected "a meeting, not an interrogation" with Brammertz, but noted that the investigator was free to ask any questions.
Previous investigator Mehlis had famously stated in two reports to the UN Security Council that the February 2005 Hariri assassination “could not have taken place without the knowledge of Syrian officials”. Syria, however, has consistently denied involvement.
Officials, including al-Assad, maintain that Hariri had been a friend to Syria, and that the late Lebanese PM was never subject to threats or intimidation from Damascus, as some have alleged. "Neither me, nor anyone else in Syria, threatened him," al-Assad said emphatically in a 30 March interview with the US-based PBS television station.
Last October, the Security Council unanimously endorsed the findings of the UN probe, calling for Syria’s “full and unconditional cooperation” with investigators. The council also demanded that Syria not interfere in Lebanese affairs.
The assassination sparked mass demonstrations against the Syrian