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Old 10-21-2005, 11:14 PM   #1
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UN Doctors Report on Hariri Assassination

UN office doctored report on murder of Hariri
From James Bone in New York and Nicholas Blanchard in Beirut
THE United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes.

The mistaken release of the unedited report added further support to the published conclusion that Syria was behind Mr Hariri’s assassination in a bomb blast on Valentine’s Day in Beirut. The murder of Mr Hariri touched off an international outcry and hastened Syria’s departure from Lebanon in April after a 29-year pervasive military presence.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, described the report’s findings as “deeply troubling”. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said: “It is an unpleasant story which the international community will take very seriously indeed.”

But the furore over the doctoring of the report threatened to overshadow its damaging findings. It raised questions about political interference by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary- General, who had promised not to make any changes in the report.

One crucial change, apparently made after the report was submitted to the UN chief, removed the name of President al-Assad’s brother, Maher, his brother-in-law, Assef al-Shawkat, and other high-ranking Syrian officials.

The final, edited version quoted a witness as saying that the plot to kill Mr Hariri was hatched by unnamed “senior Lebanese and Syrian officials”. But the undoctored version named those officials as “Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamal al-Sayyed”.

The deleted names represent the inner core of the Syrian regime. Maher al-Assad, President al-Assad’s younger brother, is a lieutenant-colonel and head of the Presidential Guard. He is known for his quick tem- per and six years ago was said to have shot his brother-in-law, General Assef Shawkat, in the stomach during an altercation.

General Shawkat, also among the deleted names, is married to President al-Assad’s headstrong sister, Bushra, and was appointed commander of Syrian military intelligence on February 14 this year, the day Mr Hariri was murdered. Gen- eral Shawkat’s predecessor at Military Intelligence was General Hassan Khalil, the third name on the deleted list.

General Bahjat Suleyman, the fourth Syrian on the list, was until June the head of the internal affairs section of the powerful General Security Department, the main civilian intelligence service.

The only Lebanese on the deleted list is General Jamal al-Sayyed, the former head of the General Security Department in Lebanon. General al-Sayyed features prominently in the report and is alleged to be one of the ringleaders plotting Mr Hariri’s assassination.

Mr Annan had pledged repeatedly through his chief spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, that he would not change a word of the report by Detlev Mehlis, a German prosecutor. But computer tracking showed that the final edit began at about 11.38am on Thursday — a minute after Herr Mehlis began a meeting with Mr Annan to present his report. The names of Maher al-Assad, General Shawkat and the others were apparently removed at 11.55am, after the meeting ended.

At a press conference yesterday Herr Mehlis insisted that Mr Annan had not pressurised him into making changes. “No one outside of the report team influenced these changes and no changes whatsoever were suggested by the Secretary-General,” he said.

There is more on it at DEBKAfile. link

Hopefully they can start turning up the heat on Assad and the duplicitious elements within the UN.
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