Lebanon News

Khaddam reiterates charge that Damascus killed Hariri

BEIRUT: The former vice president of Syria said Monday that a UN investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri would point the finger at Syrian President Bashar Assad. In a live interview late Sunday with Future Television, Abdel-Halim Khaddam once more launched a flurry of accusations at his former allies.

"The Syrian regime wants to lead Lebanon into internal strife in order to avoid the investigation," the exiled Khaddam said from his Paris residence.

Speaker Nabih Berri has been "marginalized" by the Syrian regime, he added, and threatened repeatedly by Syrian intelligence.

Khaddam said the third report from the UN investigation team, expected in mid-September, would highlight "Assad's involvement" in the assassination.

"Any security act in Syria cannot be achieved without the approval of the president," he said. "Can Rustom Ghazaleh take 1,000 kilograms of explosives from the Syrian Army warehouse, as well as the team that perpetrated the crime, without Assad's knowledge]?" Khaddam asked in reference to the former head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon who has also been accused of involvement in the February 2005 attack.

Khaddam said Hariri's murder was meant to silence the five-time premier.

"Those who dismantled the May 17 Agreement [with Israel] were Hariri, [Druze leader MP] Walid Jumblatt and Berri. One of them was killed, the other threatened and the third was marginalized," he said.

"I know very well how the Syrians dealt with Berri: They treated him the same way they treated Hariri - they threatened him," he added. "I know that he will deny it, but I'm telling you this is what happened."

Khaddam said Assad had "harmed Hizbullah" by claiming "a Lebanese party" was made in Israel and wanted  peace with the Jewish state.

He also claimed that late Syrian President Hafez Assad had wanted to "fight Israel from Lebanon" and had "ordered his intelligence services to prohibit any attack against Israel from the occupied Golan Heights in order to avoid any security instability" in Syria.

Khaddam dismissed harsh words from Assad last week in which he described Arab leaders as "half-men," saying: "The Syrian regime's life is short."

Commenting on the recent war between Israel and Hizbullah, Khaddam said: "Israel has achieved its main goal, which is the destruction of Lebanon."

Regarding the disputed Shebaa Farms, Khaddam said: "Saying that the farms are occupied, and hence cannot be demarcated, is nothing but a pretext. The demarcation would not take more than an hour if there was a political will."

Khaddam denied Iran has forged a strategic alliance with Assad. The Syrian regime is facing "Arab and international isolation," he said. - The Daily Star





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