Brammertz Seeks More Syrian Cooperation, Fails to End Bomb Delivery Mystery
Beirut, 11 Jun 06, 09:17
A new U.N. report has noted "timely" and often "comprehensive" Syrian responses to requests from the international commission probing Rafik Hariri’s killing, but cautioned that full and unconditional cooperation from Damascus was critical for the pursuit of ex-Lebanese premier’s murderers.
The report was delivered Saturday to U.N. chief Kofi Annan by the lead U.N. investigator, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, and made public through the media in New York after its distribution to the 15 U.N. Security Council members.
The investigator backed a Lebanese government request for a one-year extension of his mandate to tie up some loose ends in the Feb.14, 2005, bombing that killed Hariri and 22 other people.
France, a permanent member of the Security Council, was expected to back the extension, and Annan suggested that he would support a long mandate.
"I share the view expressed by Mr. Brammertz and the Lebanese government that the commission should be provided with stability and predictability in its mandate and resources," Annan wrote in a cover letter he sent to the Security Council members with the report.
Brammertz was expected to brief the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday – a day before his commission’s mandate expires.
Like his predecessor, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, Brammertz failed to resolve once and for all the argument as to whether the explosives had been planted underground or aboveground. But he said that "most likely" the device was aboveground.
Based on the forensic evidence analyzed thus far, the commission said it believed Hariri was killed by a "very large" improvised explosive device (IED), containing a minimum charge equivalent to 1,200 kilos (2,645 pounds) of TNT.
The evidence, it said, pointed to a Mitsubishi truck as the likely carrier of the IED which was detonated as Hariri’s convoy drove past, by an individual within or immediately in front of the truck.
The commission stopped short, however, of using the label "suicide bomber," saying that it had yet to establish whether the person detonated the device willingly "or was coerced into doing so."
Turning to the motive for the bombing, the report said "there may have been more than one reason for wanting to kill Rafik Hariri." It noted that funds embezzled from the now defunct Al Madina Bank may have been used to finance the operation.
"The Commission is investigating political motives, personal vendettas, financial circumstances, and extremist ideologies as well as any combination of the aforementioned in developing its hypotheses regarding the possible motives of those who commissioned the crime," it added.
Brammertz was considerably more conciliatory to Syria than Mehlis, who complained in his reports that Syria had not been cooperative.
"Cooperation with Syria has further developed," the new report said. But it added: "Full and unconditional cooperation from Syria to the commission remains crucial."
The report specifically noted meetings the inquiry commission had in April in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa. Other requests for information and documents were met in a "timely and generally satisfactory" manner, it said.
But he specifically complained that information he sought on the military and civilian intelligence apparatus that dealt with Lebanon remained blurred.
Two previous reports under German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, Brammertz’s predecessor, had suggested top-level Syrian involvement in the assassination plot, and blasted Damascus for failing to cooperate and actively seeking to mislead the investigation.
Syria has accused the U.N. panel of political bias.
Overall, the report concluded that "considerable progress has been achieved" in the investigation, with the commission close to completing its work relating to the crime scene, the convoy carrying Hariri and other events on the day.
"In light of their potential importance to the Hariri investigation and significance for Lebanese society as a whole, the Commission believes that a more concerted and robust effort is needed to move these investigations forward," the report added.
The commission also said the commission was interested in developing a "witness protection program" to bolster its investigative work and had approached member states to explore the extent to which they might be able to lend support.(Photo shows Brammertz delivering the report to Annan).