Aljazeera's correspondent in Damascus reported earlier on Tuesday that rumours were circulating in Damascus and Beirut that Brigadier-General Ghazali had committed suicide or had been assassinated.

Ghazali later told Aljazeera by phone that the rumours were just that. "These rumours are not new, as similar rumours have been previously reported. They only aim to create confusion."

But he said he was ready to resign if asked by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. "If the leadership asks me to die a martyr, I am ready ... and if they ask me to resign, I am also ready."

"If the leadership asks me to die a martyr, I am ready ... and if they ask me to resign, I am also ready"

Rustum Ghazali, erstwhile head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon

A UN investigation has implicated Lebanese and Syrian officials in the 14 February 2005 assassination of al-Hariri that triggered protests which led to the end of Syria's 29-year presence in Lebanon.

Ghazali was among a number of Syrian officials interviewed by a UN murder inquiry in Vienna in November.

Unjust campaign

Ghazali declined to comment on the threats he allegedly made to the late al-Hariri, saying he prefers to protect the confidentiality of the probe and avoid obstruction of the truth's revelation.

He, however, denied all accusations of corruption, including the charges levelled last week by Abdul Halim Khaddam, Syria's former vice-president, that Ghazali took $35 million from Lebanon's Al-Madina Bank, which collapsed two years ago.

"This is all baseless, part of the unjust campaign against Syria," he told Aljazeera.

Khaddam (L) was a close ally of
Bashar al-Assad's father

"All of my relatives and I are ready to disclose our financial statements, and if they find any Syrian dime in any country, let them disclose it."

Responding to Khaddam's televised accusations, Ghazali said he is above responding to such statements.

"I am a soldier in the Syrian Arab army," he said. 
 
Khaddam, he said, "has not targeted me or the Syrian governments. He has targeted Syria, our homeland. He has targeted the dignity of Syria, the dignity of every Syrian citizen and Syrian soldier".
 
Asked about possible consequences of Khaddam's statements, such as resignations, Ghazali said: "I am a Syrian army officer and I am committed to whatever the Syrian leadership decides.
 
"I will not resign and will be responsible for all my duties as a Syrian army soldier. 
 
Die a martyr

"I will continue to serve and fight under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad. I will never abandon my responsibilities.

"However, I am ready to resign and even die as a martyr if my leadership asks me to do so."

Questioned about the mass graves recently uncovered close to former Syrian intelligence posts in Lebanon, Ghazali said: "Lebanese citizens who live in these areas have said the bodies are of those killed during Israeli raids on Lebanese territories in 1982."

Ghazali said Damascus will remain committed to its decision to co-operate with the international inquiry into al-Hariri's assassination as long as it does not infringe on Syria's sovereignty.