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Syrian President Bashar Assad
Photo: AP
Photo: AFP
U.N. Chief Investigator Detlev Mehlis
Photo: AFP
Syria to allow investigation of officials
Syrian ambassador to London says Syria will let U.N. Investigators into Hariri's killing question Syrian officials in Damascus on their own

Syria will let U.N. Investigators trying to identify the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to question Syrian officials in Damascus on their own, the Syrian ambassador to London said.

 

U.N. Chief Investigator Detlev Mehlis has complained that Syrian security figures interviewed in Damascus last month appeared to give only prepared responses. The Syrians had insisted that other officials attend the interviews.

 

"There shouldn't be a problem to meet with them as witnesses any time," The ambassador, Sami Khiyami, told Reuters.

 

"Mehlis can meet them completely alone, even choose a place in Damascus with a U.N. Flag," He said, adding that the investigators would be free to produce their witnesses at the interviews, while keeping their identities secret if necessary.

 

Mehlis, who pointed to Syrian and Lebanese involvement in the assassination in an interim report in October, also accused Damascus of failing to cooperate properly with his mission.

 

Khiyami said his understanding of the Security Council resolution was that Mehlis must get the approval of a council committee before

naming anyone as suspects in Hariri's killing.

 

Asked if Syrian President Bashar Assad would agree to be interviewed for the investigation, the ambassador said: "Let us not forget that he is the symbol of the country. Mehlis can ask to meet him, and I don't think there should be a problem, but there is no other way to meet the president but to

ask for an audience."

 

Mehlis is expected soon to request interviews with Syrian officials, including members of Assad's inner circle such as his his brother Maher Assad, a key military commander, and his brother-in-law and military intelligence chief Assef Shawkat.

 

Syrian investigating committee calls for informants

 

Also Friday, the Syrian judicial committee investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister called Friday for the public's help, urging anyone with information related to the February 14 bombing to come forth, Syria's official news agency said.

 

The call came a day after the committee, headed by Syrian Prosecutor-General Ghada Murad, met for the first time since President Bashar Assad ordered its creation on October 29.

 

The decision to set up the committee came after U.N. Investigator Mehlis called on Syria to conduct its own probe into the assassination to work with the international investigation.

 

Mehlis, in his initial findings, linked top Syria and Lebanese security officials to the killing and said

Damascus had been uncooperative in the probe.

 

Murad, in a statement Thursday, said the committee had begun its work by reviewing Mehlis' initial report to the Security Council last month and said it would coordinate with the U.N. Investigation and Lebanese judicial authorities. It called on anyone who has information on the killing to contact the Syrian committee.

 

On Friday, the committee announced its headquarters in Damascus and provided telephone and fax numbers as well as an e-mail address. The details were published by SANA.

 

The Syrian government has objected to Mehlis' report, saying his findings were inaccurate and "Politicized." It said, however, that it would continue to cooperate because it was in Syria's interest to find Hariri's killers.

 

According to the decree issued by Assad, the committee - made up of Syria's prosecutor-general, the military prosecutor and a judge appointed by the justice minister - would question Syrian "Civilians and military personnel on all matters relating to the U.N. Investigation commission's mission."

 

The U.N. Security Council this week passed an unanimous resolution calling on Syria to fully cooperate with the U.N. Inquiry and threatened punitive measures if it doesn't.

 

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