BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Monday Syria’s President Bashar Assad had most likely given the order for the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in 2005.
In an interview with Europe1, the leader of the Future Movement also said he would return to Lebanon for the parliamentary elections.
“The five accused are members of Hezbollah, an organization that has a hierarchy. I think the whole world knows who gave the order: it was Bashar Assad. I think this is pretty certain,” Saad Hariri told the station in an interview conducted in French.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is proceeding with the trial of four suspects, all members of Hezbollah, over the Feb. 14, 2005, assassination of Hariri’s father. A fifth Hezbollah suspect has been indicted in the case. Hezbollah denies any involvement.
In an interview with Agence France Press, Assad accused the U.N.-backed court of being a political tool to target Hezbollah.
Hariri also reiterated his accusation that Assad was behind the assassination of former Minister Mohammad Shatah in Beirut in December.
“Yes, of course [Assad also killed Shatah]. He was one of my closest aides. He was killed in broad daylight in Beirut,” he said.
“President [Francois] Hollande and Saudi Arabia ... decided to assist the Lebanese Army. [Riyadh] gave $3 billion to purchase French equipment for the Lebanese Army in order to combat extremism. This is important for me, for Lebanon,” he added.
Asked why international justice was a long process, Hariri said: “Because over a period of 50 years there was impunity in Lebanon. This is the first time that the international community has established a process of justice for Lebanon, in the Arab world, in order to end political assassinations.”
He also praised France’s role for supporting the STL.
“France has played a bid role. Presidents [Jacques] Chirac, [Nicolas] Sarkozy and Hollande always supported the tribunal, justice, and Lebanon,” he said.
“Justice never forgets or forgives. I want justice, not to forgive or forget. This is justice for my father but also the 11 [victims] of political assassinations,” Hariri said, when asked whether he would forgive and forget.
Hariri also reiterated comments he made last week in which he said he was willing to form a national coalition government with Hezbollah.
“For me the interests of Lebanon are more important than my own. The process continues, the government in Lebanon is important for these three or four months [as] there are presidential elections,” he said.
“We think Lebanon should come [first],” he added.
Hariri, a staunch critic of the regime in Syria, also said the only way to curb the number of youths heading to fight in Syria in the name of jihad was to halt “the massacres by Bashar Assad against the Syrians.”
“It was he [Assad] who let Al-Qaeda [detainees] out of the prisons and the people should know this fact. The heads of Al-Qaeda were in the prisons of Bashar Assad. Today, these youths, I believe, are the victims of extremism, like the 150,000 killed by Bashar Assad,” he said.
“It is like a [cult]. They manipulate people, the youth, like drug traffickers. There are groups such as Al-Qaeda that [brainwash] the youth to go fight in Syria,” he added.
Asked about the Syria peace conference expected later this week in Switzerland, Hariri said Assad needed to leave power.
“[It isn’t acceptable] to have a president like Bashar Assad as Syria’s [head of state],” Hariri said.
Asked whether he believed Russia and Iran could convince Assad not to run in the presidential elections once more, Hariri said: “It is the job of Russia and Iran to tell Assad to go.”
“The Syrians do not want Bashar Assad. Bashar Assad is the real Al-Qaeda that all the world must today combat,” he added.
Asked whether he would return to Lebanon for the parliamentary elections in September, Hariri said: “Of course. I will return to Lebanon for the elections and perhaps one day become prime minister [once again.”