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Mixed Reactions in Lebanon After Release of UN Report


There are mixed reactions in Lebanon to a U.N. report, which links high-level Syrian and Lebanese officials to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

A jingle on Beirut's Future TV repeats the refrain, "The time for the truth has come." The station has long demanded justice in the slaying of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon hailed the U.N. report, which concludes that the assassination of Rafik Hariri was prepared over several months, and carried out by a group with extensive organization and considerable resources.

The report was issued late Thursday in New York, and Friday morning, Lebanese crowded around newsstands to read the headlines.

The report does not make any direct charges, but points a finger at senior Syrian and pro-Syrian Lebanese officials. Among those named in the report is Lebanon's president, Emile Lahoud, in connection with a phone call minutes before the explosion that killed Mr. Hariri. Mr. Lahoud's office denied he received such a call.

The head of Lebanon's anti-Syrian National Liberal Party, Dory Chamoun, hailed the findings of German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.

"I am saying that, in this part of the world, where we are used to politics interfering with justice, we were all worried that Mehlis' report could have some political interference, which would change the context of the report," said Dory Chamoun. "Luckily, we discovered that this was not the case, and finally justice would prevail."

Syria's information minister, Mehdi Dakhlallah, told the Arab satellite television station al-Jazeera he thought Mr. Mehlis' report was "completely politicized" and "filled with false accusations."

Some Syrian workers here in Beirut accused the United Nations of trying to harm their country.

Tamman, a Syrian butcher at a Beirut market, said he believes the U.N., "is trying to destroy Syria to help the U.S. and Israel."

The Lebanese government, apparently hoping to prevent any disturbances in the wake of the report, placed a security blanket over the Lebanese capital. Army tanks were posted along Beirut's major thoroughfares, and soldiers were seen protecting key government buildings.