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Syria Demands UN Report Revised after Witness Withdraw Testimony

Syria on Monday demanded that a UN report implicating Syrian involvement in the killing of Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri be revised after a witness withdrew his testimony on a state television broadcast. In an interview with the Syrian TV last night, Husam Taher Husam, a Syrian who said he had served as an agent for Syrian and Lebanese intelligence in Lebanon, said Hariri's son Saad had forced him to testify falsely to the UN probe.

Commenting on Husam's recant, Ibrahim al-Darraji, spokesman for the Syrian probe committee into the Hariri case, claimed the collapse of the interim report on Hariri case submitted last month by UN chief investigator Detlev Mehlis because Husam's testimony constituted the major part of the report.
"From a legal point of view if the report is based on this testimony then it has collapsed," Darraji said.

"The ball is now in the Mehlis commission's court -- they based their findings on the statements of one person and he has now to set the record straight," he added.

Husam, a barber who said he belonged to Syria's Kurdish minority, told reporters that the UN report based mainly on his false allegations, forced out by torture, threats and bribery from Saad and his followers, which was "as much as 40 percent". He said Saad, who met him several months ago, told him that he was convinced that Syria was behind the crime and need him to proof it.

Husam said he had been tortured, injected with drugs and offered 1.3 million US dollars by Lebanese Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa to testify against President Bashar al-Assad's brother Maher and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, the powerful military intelligence chief.

He also accused Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh of arranging for other witnesses to testify falsely to Mehlis, who he said was not aware of the scheme.

Husam's recant came after Damascus agreed to let the UN commission question its five officials at UN offices in Vienna in connection with the murder.

A UN commission statement confirmed that Husam had testified before it, but added that he had volunteered and even expressed fear about the repercussions from the Syrian authorities. But a spokesman for Saad Hariri immediately denied Husam's allegation at the Hariri-owned Future Television in Beirut, describing it as "fabricated and baseless".

"No person from the Hariri family met this character or had direct or indirect contact with him," he said.

Mehlis issued an interim report last month, implicating Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the killing of Hariri in a massive bombing in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Feb. 14,which Syria denied and dismissed as politically motivated. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Oct.31, demanding that Syria fully cooperate with the probe or face "further action."

(Xinhua News Agency November 29, 2005)

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