Syria rejects non-cooperation charges

A Syrian Foreign Ministry official has denied that Damascus failed to cooperate in the UN investigation of the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

    Riyad Dawoodi said the report did not contain hard evidence

    "Everything that was mentioned with regard to Syria's non-cooperation is baseless, and I was sorry to read that"

    in the report, said Foreign Ministry Adviser Riyad Dawoodi on Saturday.

    Repeating initial Syrian denials, Dawoodi said the findings of the UN investigation into al-Hariri's 14 February assassination were politicised and targetted Syria rather than finding the truth.

    "We cooperated, but this cooperation was misunderstood. I hope that (misunderstanding) was not intentional," Dawoodi said.

    The UN report was submitted by chief investigator Detlev Mehlis to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday.

    'Presumptions and allegations'

    Speaking at a crowded news conference in Damascus, Dawoodi said Mehlis based much of his report on unsubstantiated allegations.

    "All that was contained in the report is based on presumptions and allegations ... . There's no proof," he said.

    "All that was contained in the report is based on presumptions and allegations ...  There's no proof"

    Syrian Foreign Ministry Adviser Riyad Dawoodi

    Mehlis concluded that the al-Hariri murder could not have been carried out without the knowledge and agreement of Syrian and Lebanese security and intelligence officials.

    "This is just an allegation," Dawoodi said, describing the Mehlis report as a procedural document that should have remained secret until the investigators had more solid information.

    "The (UN) committee until now has not provided any worthy evidence ... but rather has opened the door to debate on points it still is trying to prove," he said.

    "This report could not be used in court," Dawoodi said.

    Cooperation will continue

    Dawoodi sidestepped a question on whether Syria would allow witnesses to be questioned by Mehlis abroad. He said Damascus would cooperate with the investigation, which was extended for two months on Friday, "but we'll see what is the
    extent of this cooperation".

    He said Mehlis relied on "witnesses that lack credibility," citing as an example an alleged former Syrian intelligence officer, Zuhair Mohammed al-Siddiq, who was arrested last week in Paris after it appeared he gave false testimony to the UN team.

    He said the commission was influenced by other witnesses with known political aims, a reference to anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon.

    "I believe the report needs to be put aside and the investigation continued till (the investigators) have convincing facts," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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