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Monday, September 12, 2005

Kuwaiti Paper: Hariri taped last conversation with Assad

The following is mideastwire.com's translation of an article in al-Seyassah:

Al Seyassah, an independent Kuwaiti newspaper, reported on September 10 that sources said Detlev Mehlis, the German Prosecutor heading the UN probe into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has in his possession a tape recording containing threats from Syrian President Bashar Assad against Hariri.The recorded tapes also show Syrian persistence on the desire to extend Lahoud’s presidential term for three more years. “The sources said that Hariri managed to record the last conversation he had with Assad, with a recording pen given to him by French President Jacques Chirac” Al Seyassah said.

“The sources continued that Assad prodded Hariri to agree on Lahoud’s presidential term’s extension whether he liked it or not, or else he [Assad] would destroy Lebanon within 10 minutes on top of Hariri’s head,” the newspaper added. Al Seyassah reported that Hariri was also threatened by the previous Syrian military intelligence chief, Rustom Ghazaleh, who shoved a gun in Hariri’s face and ordered him to listen to Assad.

Al Seyassah also reported that the sources confirmed that Assad refused a request from Jamil Sayyed, Lebanon’s former head of the General Security, to hide in Syria, instead bribing him with $100 million dollars so that he would keep silent about the assassination crime. The newspaper added that the sources also confirmed that the US President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac hold a copy of the tapes.

Assad has denied he threatened Hariri, claiming he only "discussed" the "plan" to extend Lahoud's term with Hariri. Here's what he told Der Spiegel a few weeks ago.

Assad: And some have even said I threatened him. Others claimed a security agent pointed his pistol at Hariri's head. That's simply ridiculous. In that conversation, we discussed extending the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. It's obvious that Hariri was against the idea. So I told him: "We don't want to pressure you. Go back to Lebanon and then give us your decision." He told us a few days later that he agreed with the plan. Why should Syria kill someone with whom it has no differences of opinion? It doesn't make any sense at all. In truth, we Syrians are the ones who ended up suffering the greatest drawbacks as a result of this affair.

I don't know ... seyasseh has earned a bad reputation lately ...
The same account (though no tapes were mentioned) was reported by the Irish journalist Lara Marlow. http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&B573C9EE509A7099C225706C0023ED79

Regardless of the existence of tapes, I must say I am fascinated by how this investigation is unfolding. I think it is setting a very good precedent in Lebanon and the region.
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