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4 Former Lebanese Officials Held in Hariri Killing, Ex-Legislator Released


A former Lebanese lawmaker questioned in connection with the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri has been released. But four key former security officials remain in custody on suspicion of masterminding the assassination last February.

The four once powerful Lebanese generals remain in custody as a U.N. team continues their interrogation in a mountain town outside of Beirut.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Sinioura said the four detainees are suspects in the February explosion, which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri and 20 others. Beirut's respected Al Mustaqbal newspaper, which belongs to the slain former prime minister's son, says that the four men met repeatedly to plot their crime, and even visited the crime scene prior to the explosion.

A top pro-Syrian politician, Nasser Qandil, was questioned by U.N. investigators late Tuesday, but was later released.

State Department spokesman Sean Mc Cormack welcomed the arrests, saying the Lebanese people deserve to know what happened. He reiterated Washington's demand that Syria fully comply with U.N. resolutions.

The U.N. Security Council also has welcomed the arrest of suspects, but a senior U.N. official said Tuesday that Syria is still not cooperating with the investigation.

Edmond Sa'ab, the executive editor of Beirut's popular An Nahar newspaper says many ordinary Lebanese are rejoicing at the arrests of the four men whom they blame for killing Mr. Hariri. Even though, he says, many people believed the culprits will never be brought to justice.

"There was a brainwashing campaign 15 days ago, through some newspapers and media in Lebanon that the international committee [U.N. investigation panel] is not serious and will not arrest or detain the accused people, because they are above the law and more powerful than Lebanon or the United Nations," said Edmond Sa'ab.

The arrested generals, Jamil As Sayyed, Raymond Azar, Ali al Haj and Mustapha Hamdan, were close allies of Syria, which is widely believed to be behind the February bombing. Damascus has denied any responsibility, and Syrian President Bashar al Assad pledged, in an interview Monday, that his country would fully comply with requests of the U.N. investigating team.

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