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Lebanon's Saad Hariri Says Syrian Official Planning to Kill Him

The leader of Lebanon's anti-Syrian ruling coalition says he has information about a plot to kill him. He and other anti-Syrian politicians have been living under tight security for several years amid a string of assassinations that they have blamed on Damascus, although Syrian officials have denied any connection to the killings. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from Cairo.

Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader, Saad Hariri, said he has evidence that a senior Syrian official has been plotting to assassinate him and Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Hariri was in Cairo and responded to a reporter who asked whether Syrian military intelligence chief Assif Shawkat was behind the alleged plot.

"We have information about this, and it is accurate, " he said. He said Lebanon's security services are following up on intelligence about the alleged assassination plot, which he said also targeted Prime Minister Siniora.

Hariri said his talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak centered on Lebanon's upcoming presidential election. Pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud's term in office expires next month, but Lebanon's rival political factions have been deadlocked and unable to agree on a successor. Parliament is set to meet again on November 12 for a last attempt to reach a consensus.

Hariri said he and President Mubarak agreed that no Arab state should interfere in Lebanon's political process, an implicit swipe at Syria.

Saad Hariri heads the anti-Syrian bloc holding a slim majority of seats in parliament. A wave of assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians over the past two years has prompted many members of the ruling coalition to take extreme security measures to protect themselves. Some have left the country, while others stay in fortified compounds or hotels. Most of the cabinet members have spent the last year living in the Grand Serail compound, which houses the prime minister's offices.

Hariri's father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed in a massive car-bombing in Beirut in early 2005.

An initial U.N. inquiry into that bombing implicated some senior Syrian officials, including Shawkat. In addition to heading Syria's military intelligence service, Shawkat is also the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Saad Hariri and Prime Minister Siniora have led the push to establish an international tribunal to try suspects in the killings. Damascus denies any involvement in the murders, and has said it will not turn over its citizens for trial outside of Syria.

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