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Israeli Leaders Call For Change In Syria


Israeli politicians on Friday called for a leadership change in Syria. Their comments followed the release of a United Nations report that concluded high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese officials were involved in the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum say the 54-page U.N. report clearly implicates senior Syrian and pro-Syrian Lebanese officials in Mr. Hariri's murder. They say the international community should press for a change in Syria's leadership.

Israel's vice premier, Shimon Peres, told Israel Radio, if the Syrian government was involved in Mr. Hariri's killing, it will in his words shake up the ruling family. Mr. Peres says he believes there needs to be a change in Syria, and the United States and France should take the lead on an international response to the findings in the report.

Ephraim Halevy, a former chief of Israel's spy agency, the Mossad, told Israel Army Radio, the killing of Mr. Hariri was a large operation involving many members of the Syrian ruling elite. At the top of that elite, he says, is Syrian President Bashar Assad who must be held responsible.

Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz a senior Likud Party official, and chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, acknowledged disputes in the Israeli leadership about whether there should be a change of leadership in Damascus, but says he believes it is in Israel's interest to end the Assad dynasty.

Syria's information minister said Friday that the U.N. report was politically motivated and untrue.