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US Senator Says Syria Behind Hariri Assassination


Senator Patrick Leahy (file photo)
A senior U.S. senator says he has no doubt that Syria was behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Senator Patrick Leahy spoke after a meeting at U.N. headquarters with Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

As he emerged from talks with the secretary-general, Senator Leahy told reporters he has seen clear evidence of Syrian involvement in Mr. Hariri's killing.

"There is no question, no question in mind from all I've seen they were behind the assassination, and I think that the only good thing could be said from that assassination is that they so overstepped, maybe it was the arrogance of power, so overstepped their position, Syria did, that we've all seen the public reaction against it," he said.

Senator Leahy's comments came shortly after it was revealed that Secretary-General Annan had urgently dispatched a top envoy to Damascus to meet Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric refused to give details of the mission except to say the envoy, Terje Roed Larsen, would discuss Syria's full implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the complete pullout of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

"The implementation of 1559 still ongoing, and I think there are bound to be regular contacts between the U.N. and the Syrian leadership on this, but I have no further details on their specific agenda," he said.

Damascus announced the full withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon more than a month ago, but U.N. monitors have raised questions about the continued presence of Syrian intelligence operatives in the country.

The United Nations has also sent a team to Lebanon, headed by a German prosecutor, to investigate the Hariri assassination. The United States has said it would like the probe expanded to include the killing of prominent anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir, who died in a car-bomb explosion last week.

Syria has denied any involvement in the killings. Senator Leahy told reporters Monday that, while he had seen evidence in the case of the Hariri assassination, he had no information on who killed Samir Kassir.

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