A United Nations team investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will travel to Lebanon to lay the groundwork for an international inquiry into the killing. The U.N. Security Council ordered the investigation after a fact-finding mission concluded that Lebanon's own probe into Mr. Hariri's murder suffered from "serious flaws."
The U.N. fact-finding mission also concluded that the government of Syria "bears primary responsibility for the political tension that preceded the assassination" of Mr. Hariri. According to the U.N. mission's report, Damascus "interfered with the details of governance in Lebanon in a heavy-handed and inflexible manner that was the primary reason for the political polarization that ensued." The U.N. report said that Syrian military intelligence was responsible for "the lack of security, protection, [and] law and order in Lebanon...to the extent of its involvement in running the security services in Lebanon."
The murder of Mr. Hariri galvanized millions of Lebanese to demand the withdrawal of Syrian military forces and intelligence operatives from Lebanon. Syria has told the United Nations that it has fully withdrawn its forces from Lebanon, as required by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. But the U.S and others remain concerned that Syria has kept a covert intelligence presence in Lebanon through which it continues to manipulate Lebanese political affairs.
President George W. Bush said that Syria should withdraw all of its intelligence personnel before Lebanon's parliamentary elections, now scheduled for the end of May:
"The United States can join with the rest of the world like we've done and say to Syria: 'Get out; not only get out with your military forces, but get out with your intelligence services, too. Get completely out of Lebanon so that Lebanon can be free and the people can be free'."
Mr. Bush says that the Lebanese people "have the right to determine their future, free from domination by a foreign power." A "thriving democracy" is possible in Lebanon, he says, but only after Syria removes all of its personnel from the country and the Lebanese people are allowed to vote in free and fair elections.
The preceding is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.