Syria FM: 'We rejected Lebanon bargain'

Syria has said it has rejected an offer to freeze a UN investigation into the assassination of ex-Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in exchange for 'allowing' presidential polls in Lebanon.

Syria FM: 'We rejected Lebanon bargain'
Rafik Hariri was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Damascus has denied any involvement in the assassination of the anti-Syrian politician. It has also denied trying to undermine and prevent presidential elections in Lebanon.

The UN Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel announced on Monday the complete formation of the International Tribunal tasked with investigating Hariri's assassination. The Netherlands has agreed to host the tribunal in Leidschendam, a suburb of The Hague.

"The court has been used as a political tool," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told the Lebanese ANB television channel. "We have an interest in finding out the truth. We want to know the truth."

He did not say who had made the offer to exchange the investigation for polls, but stressed that Syria rejected any political pressure.

"We were told 'facilitate presidential elections [in Lebanon], and we will terminate the tribunal,'" Muallem said.

Lebanon refused to attend an all-Arab summit in Damascus on March 20-30 in protest against Syria's alleged meddling in its internal affairs. The country has been unable to elect a president since November 23 over disputes between the ruling majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition. It recently put off, for the 17th time, the country's presidential polls, rescheduling the planned March 25 elections for April 22.

Muallem also said the offer included the imposition of a year-long freeze on the UN court's actions and the financing of the tribunal.

"We do not enter into such bargains," the minister said.

A UN investigation commission said on Friday that a "criminal network" had carried out the 2005 assassination of Hariri and was connected to other acts of political violence in Lebanon. The commission's report did not however identify anyone or any countries involved in the violence.

RIA Novosti

Last Mod: 02 Nisan 2008, 09:11
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