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Syrian Witness Says: Assad, Lahoud Ordered Hariri's Killing

Syrian Witness Says: Assad, Lahoud Ordered Hariri's Killing

A Syrian national suspected of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud ordered the killing, the Lebanese Media reported Sunday.

Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq, the witness-turned-suspect in the massive bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others in central Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005, accused outright Assad and Lahoud of giving the orders to assassinate Hariri, An Nahar daily newspaper said.

In a live interview with Al-Arabiya channel from his residence in Paris, Siddiq said that he saw the car (used in the assassination) with his own eyes being prepared at the al-Zabadani camp, the daily said.

He added that he gave the former UN chief investigator Detlev Mehlis irrefutable documents, insisting that they are real pictures and not fabricated and that the 'negatives' are with him, the Al-Mustaqbal daily newspaper reported.

The Syrian witness said he has a recording that shows how the Syrian intelligence were trying to lure him to Damascus.

Siddiq displayed in the interview a live recording from his phone but the words were not clear. He explained that the voice is of a Syrian officer asking him to retract his testimony, to state that he is a civilian like any other and to say that one of the March 14 members promised him hefty money to testify before the UN investigation committee. Siddiq said the Syrian officer promised him to arrange a better deal than that of Husam Husam, the other Syrian witness who retracted his testimony.

Siddiq had previously told U.N. investigators that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers were implicated in Hariri's assassination. He later claimed he was forced to give such a testimony.

He said that the phone call was the latest since almost a month and it is recorded.

Al-Mustaqbal said that Siddiq asked the French authorities to monitor and register all his incoming calls so that the Syrian authorities won't try to allege otherwise.

Siddiq confirmed that he was a major in the Syrian intelligence and was residing at the Ain el-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp.

He said "all the stories concocted about me have been fabricated after the Syrian authorities knew that I was a witness in the Hariri case and I have recordings from my brothers that I delivered to the UN investigation committee," the Hariri-owned daily said.

About his status as a wanted man by the Lebanese authorities, he stated that the French judiciary is convinced that he is a witness and not an accused.

The French authorities detained Siddiq near Paris on Oct. 16, 2005 when the U.N. commission recommended his arrest on grounds of giving false evidence to UN investigators.

Lebanese prosecutors have charged him in absentia with giving false testimony to mislead U.N. investigators and playing an indirect role in Hariri's killing.

In December 2005, France refused to hand over Siddiq to Lebanon fearing he could face the death penalty for his alleged involvement in the murder.

French authorities replied to a Lebanese request to extradite the witness-turned-suspect, saying it could not hand over someone who could be sentenced to death.(Photo shows Siddiq)

Beirut, 10 Sep 06, 06:28