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Photo: AFP
Mehlis: Syria obstructed investigation
Photo: AFP
U.N. report: Detain Syrian officials
Chief investigator into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri’s killing calls on Damascus to arrest high-ranking Syrian figures; report says Syria attempted to obstruct investigation
Heat is on: Syria must detain senior officials suspected of involvement in planning and financing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, a scathing United Nations report submitted early Monday says.

 

The 25-page report from German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis' team again accused Syria of trying to obstruct his probe when it demanded that he revise his findings after a crucial witness recanted his testimony.

 

"This was, at the least, an attempt to hinder the investigation internally and procedurally,” the report charged.

 

The publicized section of the report also accused Syria of cooperating with the inquiry on one hand, while at the same time mudslinging the investigative team’s work in the media.

 

DNA samples

 

According to estimates, the report refers to the five high-ranking Syrian officials questioned in Vienna, including the former chief of internal security and the former miliarty intelligence chief in Lebanon.

 

The report says the give senior figures signed declarations provided during their questioning sessions and even provided DNA samples in order to examine the possibility they were directly involved in Hariri’s killing.

 

Two of the five figures apparently told investigators all relevant Syrian intelligence documents were burned down and said they are unable to provide information on Hariri’s murder.

 

According to Mehlis, this testimony requires the investigative team to continue its inquiry.

 

The five Syrian officials are part of a group of 19 mostly Lebanese suspects, who according to investigators are involved in the planning and executing the assassination in one way or another.

 

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to convene Tuesday in order to discuss the newly released report and take decisions against the senior Syrian figures involved in the affair, and possibly against Syria itself.

 

However, the report notes further investigation is needed and asks for a mandate to continue the inquiry for another six months, taking into consideration Syria’s inadequate cooperation.

 

Is Mehlis concerned for his safety?

 

Mehlis has already informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that he wished to complete his work on the date set for the investigation, but not to continue on as head of the investigations committee.

 

A U.N. source told London-based Arabic-Language newspaper al-sharq al-Awsat newspaper that a Belgian judge offered the top job in place of Mehlis has rejected the position.

 

Other reports suggest that Mehlis is concerned about his personal safety and wishes to "lower his profile" due to fears over his wellbeing.

 

Mehlis' report comes following an earlier reported submitted by the chief investigator on October 22. While the U.N. extended the mandate of the investigations committee until December 15, it now appears that work will have to go on at least until the beginning of January.

 

Roee Nahmias and news agencies contributed to this report

 

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