Syria Involved in Killing Lebanon's Ex-Premier, U.N. Report Says
By WARREN HOGE
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 20 - The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon was a carefully planned terrorist act organized by Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services, according to a United Nations report made public this evening.
The report by the chief United Nations investigator, Detlev Mehlis, said, "The assassination of 14 February 2005 was carried out by a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities."
The report said, "There is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act."
The report said that the crime had been planned "over many months" and that the movements of Mr. Hariri and the convoy he traveled in had been closely monitored with his "itineraries recorded in detail."
Mr. Hariri died when a bomb exploded his car on a downtown Beirut street.
"Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge," the report concluded.
Indications that the Mehlis report would reveal a Syrian role in the killing of Mr. Hariri have focused pressure on Syria's embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, and caused intense anxiety in political circles in Damascus and Beirut.
Mr. Mehlis, a German prosecutor, and his team of investigators spent several days in September interrogating Syrian security officials at a resort near the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The United States has sought support from allies in the region to isolate Syria and force Mr. Assad to cease supporting and financing anti-Israel militias and stop what Washington believes is a willingness by Damascus to infiltrate insurgents across its border with Iraq.
John R. Bolton, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, noting that the Mehlis report was "bigger than a breadbox," said there would be no substantive comment from the United States until Friday.
"We have just received the report and we're going to look at it very carefully tonight, evaluate it and decide on the basis of that evaluation and consultation what the next steps will be," he said. "We've already been in consultations considering the various possibilities."
Diplomats from the United States, Britain and France have been discussing their options for taking action against Syria, and the issue will be considered next week by the Security Council. Mr. Mehlis is scheduled to give council members a briefing on his report on Tuesday.
Among the options are two resolutions that would step up the pressure on Damascus to end actions that destabilize the region, according to a European diplomat briefed on discussions about the subject between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Jacques Chirac of France in Paris last week.
He said one resolution would be put forward under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter, which calls for forceful measures like economic and diplomatic sanctions, and another under Chapter VI, which calls for solutions through negotiation and mediation.
The United States and France sponsored the original resolution in September, 2004 that called on Lebanon to reject Syrian interference in its politics and called on all foreign forces to leave the country. The resolution led to the eventual departure of 20,000 Syrian troops and the virtual end to the decades-long domination of Lebanese politics by Syria.
A second report on Syria by the United Nations special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, originally scheduled for this week, has been put off until next week to avoid what United Nations officials described as a "congestion" of measures dealing with Damascus. That report will verify whether all Syrian troops and intelligence officials have truly withdrawn from Lebanon and track the progress in disarming militias.
Mr. Mehlis has been given an extension until December to continue his investigation.
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