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UN Probe Links Syria with Hariri Murder

A UN investigation report released Thursday evening linked Syria with the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and called on the Syrian authorities to cooperate with investigators.

"There is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act," said the report, referring to the Feb. 14 deadly bomb attack in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, which killed Hariri and 20 others.

The report was presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier in the day by Detleve Mehlis, the head of an independent inquiry commission into the murder of Hariri.

According to the report, the assassination was carried out by "a group with extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities" and had been prepared "over the course of several months."

The report, which has been transmitted to members of the Security Council, said the commission established that "many leads point directly toward Syrian security officials as being involved with the assassination."

The report then called on the Syrian government to cooperate with UN investigators in finding answers to questions over the part of Syrian security officials in the death of Hariri.

"It is incumbent upon Syria to clarify a considerable part of the unresolved questions," the report concluded.

The report also accused the Syrian government of being reluctant to cooperate with the investigative team.

"While the Syrian authorities, after initial hesitation, have cooperated to a limited degree with the commission, several interviewees tried to mislead the investigation by giving false or inaccurate statements," the report noted.

The Syrian government has vehemently denied any involvement in the murder of Hariri, who had called for the withdrawal of Syria's troops from Lebanon.

Hariri's death led to renewed calls for the withdrawal of all Syrian troops and intelligence agents, who had been in Lebanon since the early stages of the country's 1975-1990 civil war. Syria withdrew its troops from its smaller neighbor in April.

German prosecutor Mehlis, appointed in May by Annan to lead the independent inquiry team, carried out intensive investigations in both Lebanon and Syria. Last month, he named the heads of Lebanese intelligence and security agencies as suspects.

Mehlis will brief the 15-nation Security Council on the investigation next Tuesday.

(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2005)

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