Hariri told UN investigator Syria killed father

Beirut, Jan 17 (AFP) Lebanon''s caretaker PrimeMinister Saad Hariri informed a UN commission Syria was behindhis father''s killing, according to a leaked recording of a2007 meeting between Hariri and an investigator probing thecase.

In the audio-tape, aired late yesterday on Lebanesetelevision and authenticated by Hariri''s office, the actingpremier singled out a string of Syrian officials he heldresponsible for the 2005 bombing that killed his father,ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, and 22 others.

The leak also featured the normally reserved Haririopenly accusing Syrian leaders of blackmailing his father andslamming President Bashar al-Assad as an "idiot".

In the recording, Hariri tells investigator LajmiMohammad Ali in a meeting on July 30, 2007 that Syrian ForeignMinister Walid Muallem warned his father he was "walking ondangerous ground" weeks before his death.

"If you ask me how it (the assassination) happened andwhy it happened, I think that Assef Shawkat and Maher(al-Assad) had a huge role in the preparation ... in pushing(Syrian President) Bashar (al-Assad) to take that decision,"Hariri said in English.

Shawkat, Assad''s brother-in-law, is Syria''s militaryintelligence chief. Maher al-Assad is the brother of theSyrian president and former head of the presidential guard.

The tape was aired by New TV, which is close toHezbollah, on the eve of indictments set to be submitted bythe prosecutor of the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal forLebanon (STL), which is investigating Hariri''s murder.

The powerful Shiite militant group has said itbelieves some of its members will be implicated in the killingand has warned it will defend itself.

Hariri, whose office issued a statement apologising toseveral local figures he criticised in the recording, hadespecially harsh words for Assad, whom he has sought to movecloser to over the past year.

"You know Bashar became president when he was 34 and... went to the first Arab summit ... and he gave a lecture tokings and presidents who have been there for the past 15years," said Hariri, who was not premier at the time of theinterview. "And it struck me: you idiot, the least you coulddo is not give a lecture about Arabism."

Hariri also accused Syrian intelligence officialRustum Ghazali of blackmail, saying he regularly took as muchas USD 90,000 in cash from his father and requested otherservices.

Ghazali was head of Syrian military intelligence inLebanon from 2002 until 2005, when Damascus pulled its troopsfrom its smaller neighbour after a 29-year deployment. (AFP)

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