Syrian aide meets UN investigator

The head of the UN probe into the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq al-Hariri has met a senior Syrian official in Barcelona, Spain, in a bid to agree on a venue for questioning six Syrian suspects, diplomatic sources said.

    Detlev Mehlis is probing the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri

    The UN investigator Detlev Mehlis and Riad Daudi, legal counsellor at the Syrian foreign ministry, on Friday agreed to continue talking, the sources said without elaborating.


    According to a Syrian official cited by the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, the two men had been due to examine a Syrian proposal for the questioning to be done at the headquarters of a UN observer force in the Golan Heights.

    The offices of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) are on Syrian soil in a buffer zone on the Golan Heights and were set up after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war to maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Syria.

    The offices at Camp Faouar are not in parts controlled by Israel, which occupied the heights in 1967. The buffer zone is off limits to the armed forces of both sides. 


    "Syria prefers the UN headquarters above any other place, and that includes the German city of Cologne and Turkey," the newspaper said, referring to two sites that had been suggested as possiblities. 

    Syrian reservations

    Syria has said Mehlis had been made aware of Syria's reservations about Beirut as a venue citing fears of tensions between the neighbours. 


    The officials to be interviewed include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, who heads the country's military intelligence.


    "Syria prefers the UN headquarters above any other place, and that includes the German city of Cologne and Turkey"

    London-based Arabic daily

    Apart from Shawkat, Beirut dailies say the others include Bahjat Suleiman, former domestic intelligence chief; the former head of military intelligence in Lebanon, Rustom Ghazaleh, and his deputy, Jameh Jameh. 


    Daudi held unofficial consultations on 9 November with Mehlis, who then rejected a proposal that the meetings take place at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

    Anti-Syrian sentiment is still running high in Lebanon where many people say Damascus and its Lebanese allies were behind the assassination. Syria retains the support of some political groups in Lebanon, especially the Shia Amal and Hizb Allah factions.

    In an interim report last month, Mehlis said he had evidence of Syrian and Lebanese officials' involvement in al-Hariri's assassination by a car bomb that also killed 22 others. Syria denies any role in the killing of its former long-term ally.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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