Hariri tells UN investigator Syria behind his father's killing

AFP, Monday 17 Jan 2011

Caretaker PM Saad Al-Hariri said, in a private conversation, that senior Syrian officials were involved in his father's assassination

Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri was convinced that Syria was behind his father's killing, according to a leaked recording of a 2007 meeting between Hariri and a UN investigator probing the case.

The audio-tape, aired late Sunday on Lebanese television and authenticated by Hariri's office, sheds light on the UN-backed probe into the 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Al-Hariri, Saad's father.

The tape was aired by New TV, which is close to Hezbollah, on the eve of indictments set to be submitted by the prosecutor of the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is investigating Hariri's murder.

The political group Hezbollah has said it believes its members will be implicated in the killing.

In the recording, Hariri tells investigator Lajmi Mohammad Ali in a meeting on 30 July  2007, that his father had been warned weeks before his death by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that he was "walking on dangerous ground".

"If you ask me how it (the ) happened and why it happened, I think that Assef Shawkat and Maher (al-Assad) had a huge role in the preparation ... in putting (Syrian President) Bashar (Al-Assad) to take that decision," said Hariri.

Shawkat is Syria's military intelligence chief and Assad's brother-in-law while Maher Al-Assad is the brother of the Syrian president and head of the presidential guard.

Hariri also states that shortly before his death on February 14, 2005, Rafiq Al-Hariri had been forewarned by UN special envoy Terje Road Larson that the Syrian regime wanted to kill him.

"Terje came to my father -- and this is what (Terje) told me -- ... and he told my father 'they are going to kill you'," Hariri said.

"He felt something, he told me he said 'Rafiq, you're going to have to be careful, they are going to kill you'," Hariri, who was not premier at the time of the meeting, adds.

He said that then-French President Jacques Chirac, who was a close friend of Rafiq Hariri, had also expressed concern about a possible assassination attempt.

"I know that President Chirac called him the day before (he died) and told him 'I am really concerned about your security, be careful," Saad Al-Hariri told the investigator.

Initial reports by UN investigators probing Hariri's murder in a massive bomb blast on Beirut waterfront implicated Syrian intelligence.

Hariri also initially openly accused Damascus for his father's death but in a stunning about-turn last year he said he had been wrong to do so.

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