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Syria Confirms Receiving UN Request to Interview Assad
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Syrian officials confirmed on Tuesday that Damascus has received a request by a UN investigation commission to interview President Bashar al-Assad in the probe into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Bashali Kanfani, director of the Foreign Media Department of the Foreign Ministry, told Xinhua over phone that Syria received the request on Sunday to interview Assad and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara concerning the case.

She declined to give further details, saying that the request was not submitted to the Foreign Ministry but to the Syrian government.

Namir Ganim, chairman of the Foreign Committee of the Syrian People's Assembly (parliament), also told Xinhua that legal experts at the Foreign Ministry were studying the request.

"If they consider that the request does not infringe upon national sovereignty and dignity, Syria will provide as much cooperation as it can with the commission," Ganim said.

Former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, who is living in Paris, accused in an interview with the Dubai-based al-Arabiya television on Friday that President Assad had threatened Hariri just months before he was assassinated in a car bomb blast on Feb. 14.

Khaddam said Syrian intelligence services could not have carried out such an operation without Assad being informed.

Following the allegation, the UN commission in Beirut sought to interview Assad, Shara and other senior officials and was waiting for an answer.

Outgoing chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis submitted two interim reports in October and December, accusing Syrian and Lebanese officials of being involved in the killing of Hariri.

The UN Security Council demanded full Syrian cooperation with the international probe.

Syria has denied any role in the killing and dismissed the UN charge of slow cooperation as "inaccurate."

(Xinhua News Agency January 4, 2006)

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