United Nations investigators have issued a report saying that high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese officials are connected to the February 2005 car bombing that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and twenty other people. Mr. Hariri was an opponent of Syria's nearly three-decade military presence in Lebanon.
The report was prepared for U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan by an investigative team led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. The decision to assassinate Mr. Hariri, it says, "could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services." In a summary statement, Mr. Mehlis wrote, "It would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge."
The report also accuses Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara of trying to mislead the investigators. Mr. Mehlis and the other U-N investigators interviewed some four-hundred witnesses and reviewed sixty-thousand documents. One of the Syrians questioned, Ghazi Kenaan, the interior minister, reportedly committed suicide.
Four pro-Syrian Lebanese government officials have already been arrested in connection with the murder. They include Jamil al-Sayed, former head of Internal Security, Raymond Azar, former chief of military intelligence; Ali Hajj, a former police chief; and Mustafa Hamdan, former leader of the Lebanese presidential security guard.
U-N Secretary General Annan says that there is still much work to be done to bring those responsible for Mr. Hariri's death to justice:
"Mr. Mehlis's report is the beginning, not the end, because the magistrates and others will have to follow through on the report and decide who to charge and who to bring to the dock."
Ambassador David Welch is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He says the U.N. findings have "grave implications":
"There was a political motive for this crime. Number two, there appears to have been a sophisticated conspiracy, the organization of which is detailed extensively in the report. Number three, it mentions false statements, lack of cooperation and rehearsed testimony."
Mr. Welch says the U.S. stands with the Lebanese people, the U-N, and others in calling for those involved in the death of Rafik Hariri to be held accountable for their actions.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.