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Annan Receives Hariri Assassination Report


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has received the report of an international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The report is likely to implicate Syrian and Lebanese officials.

German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis presented his 50-page report to Secretary-General Annan Thursday. It is to be given to Security Council members Friday, and then made public.

As he went in to a Security Council meeting Thursday, Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said he has not seen the Mehlis report. But he told reporters he was going to study it carefully before deciding what to do next.

"We've been in consultations and discussions with a number of other countries about what the contingencies might be and what our reaction might be," said Mr. Bolton. "But I can assure you that until we read the report we don't have any decisions on it."

Ambassador Bolton earlier declined to discuss the behind-the-scenes negotiations about possible Security Council responses to the Mehlis report. European diplomats have said France and the United States are among those leading a diplomatic initiative aimed at Syria. U.S. mission spokesman Richard Grenell told reporters there is broad agreement that some reaction will be necessary.

"The Security Council members, we are in agreement there needs to be some sort of reaction to the report, and if we find some seriousness in the report as to who might have been involved in this horrific killing, the Security Council is ready to react. And that's what we've been talking about," he said.

Diplomatic sources this week confirmed that the Mehlis report implicates Syrian and Lebanese officials in the assassination. During his investigation, the veteran German prosecutor named four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals as suspects, and questioned seven Syrian officials. One of them, Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan, committed suicide last week.

But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted in a German newspaper as saying "we are 100 percent innocent."

Twice this week, Secretary-General Annan warned against politicizing what is expected to be a politically explosive report. He told reporters there is still a long process ahead in bringing to justice anyone who might be involved in Mr. Hariri's death.

"Mehlis's report is the beginning, not the end, because the magistrates and others will have to follow through on the report and decide who to charge and who to bring to the dock [to trial]," he said.

Mr. Annan is expected to act soon on a request from Lebanon's prime minister, Fouad Siniora, to extend the Mehlis investigation mandate though mid-December. The extension would allow Mr. Mehlis and his staff of detectives to explore "follow up measures to bring the perpetrators" of Mr. Hariri's assassination to justice.