September 14, 2005
LEBANON: 'FIRST CHAPTER' OF MEHLIS' UN-LED ASSASSINATION PROBE IS OVER
** Regional outlets clamor for the '"whole truth" to expose the "real culprits" behind the blast.
** Non-Syrian outlets see some kind of "Lebanese-Syrian" plot behind the assassination.
** Lebanese media support domestic, not international, moves to oust President Lahoud.
** Hariri assassination was an "earthquake" reverberating through Lebanon's judicial system.
Uncovering the 'terrible truth'-- Commentary on the Hariri assassination probe came solely from the region. A Saudi writer described the arrest of many Lebanese security heads as targeting the "masterminds" of the plot. A Lebanese outlet expected that the "truth would be reached" even if "the Syrian door stays closed." According to official Syrian papers, Damascus, as the "party most harmed" by the repercussions of the blast, is "eager and willing" to "reveal the whole truth." Beirut's Daily Star wanted UN investigator Mehlis to "carefully weigh" how his conclusions would affect the overarching objectives of allowing Lebanon to "transcend" the era of Syrian occupation and "rediscover its unity." An Israeli expert held that a successful investigation "could bode well" for the Syrian and Lebanese peoples.
Syria's 'bonds of coordination'-- Lebanon's moderate An-Nahar envisioned a "most dangerous autumn" ahead, after prominent members of the "joint Syrian-Lebanese security regime that tyrannized Lebanon for its own interests" were arrested. A Lebanese analyst called the expected UN assassination report "a pistol aimed at the heart of the Syrian regime" and claimed many "in Washington and Paris" are "just dying to pull the trigger." He argued that Assad would even "cut a deal" with the U.S. "to salvage his regime." An Israeli observer, however, doubted that "even a clumsy person like Assad Jr." would "leave clear footprints."
President Lahoud will pay the 'greatest political price'-- Lebanese press criticized Lahoud, saying he "diminished" the presidency through his "mafia-style" extension in office. Arab nationalist As-Safir concluded Lahoud is battling both "local" and international forces who want him ousted. It described a "serious political effort" to convince his Lebanese allies to "abstain from protecting" him. In light of the arrest of the head of the Presidential Guard, independent Al-Balad alleged "the fire has reached the President’s bedroom." It held "the best thing Lahoud can do now is...bid farewell to the Lebanese.” Moderate An-Nahar agreed, stating "pressure to get him to resign is intensifying," especially if he is found "morally responsible" for the crime.
Lebanon's judiciary 'crisis'-- A Saudi analyst portrayed the Lebanese government as "working hard" to prove its judicial system capable of applying its "power and authority" to the prosecution of the murderers. Some Lebanese observers wrote that their countrymen "distrust" the judicial system and suspect Lahoud's "interference" in its work. Lebanon's centrist Al-Anwar lamented the lack of a "dialogue between the Lebanese themselves" about the nation's fate. Another Lebanese writer urged citizens to put aside "arguments and fights" in order to bring Lebanon to "the level of countries" deserving of "sovereignty."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Susan L. Emerson
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 29 reports from 4 countries over 30 August - 14 September, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
ISRAEL: "Movement In Syria And Lebanon"
Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz claimed (9/5): "Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah delivered a surprise this weekend when he declared that his organization would agree to disarm if it received guarantees of security in Lebanon from an international party (other than the United States). Although it conditioned its disarmament on the end of Israel's occupation of 'Lebanese territory,' that is, the Sheba Farms, this is the first time that Nasrallah has made such a declaration. This declaration is obviously very interesting to Israel, even though it was not meant primarily for Israel's ears: Hizballah is one of the main focuses of the struggle now taking place in Lebanon.... [Other] developments in Lebanon and Syria--the progress in the investigation of Hariri's murder and the increasing international pressure on Assad--could bode well for the Syrian and Lebanese peoples, as well as for their southern neighbor. Israel must refrain from any involvement that would prevent this scenario from being realized."
"Recipe For An Outburst"
Veteran columnist Yaron London wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/1): "Sunni Muslims represent around 75 percent of [Syria's] population, but power is in the hands of the Alawites, who constitute no more than 10 percent [of the population]. This is the recipe for a volcanic eruption, should Bashar Assad's regime collapse.... Sunni fundamentalists might take over Syria. In 1982, Hafez Assad massacred tens of thousands of them in the city of Hama, but they will undoubtedly raise their heads as soon as the Ba'ath regime gets unhinged.... Should a clear connection be found between the presidential palace in Damascus and Rafic Hariri's assassins, the [UN] Security Council would most certainly impose sanctions on Syria, but it should be assumed that even a clumsy person like Assad Jr. wouldn't leave clear footprints. What will Syria do under pressure? It might go mad or surrender. Attempts to foresee the behavior of tyrants are often disappointing, but we must prepare ourselves for the worst possibility."
"The Lion From Damascus Is Coming Across As A Cat"
Arab affairs correspondent Smadar Perry alleged in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (8/31): "[President Bashar] Assad made Syria lose its special status in the region.... Assad has lost on all international fronts: President Bush is threatening to place Syria on the economic-diplomatic 'axis of evil' and to topple Assad. The UN is about to blame him for the assassination of former Lebanese prime Minister Rafic Hariri. A propos Hariri--his brutal elimination killed an investment plan for economic projects in Syria that were funded from the Hariri family's private capital.... Was Assad a partner in the secret plan to eliminate Hariri? Who prepared the list of hits? It is hard to believe that there will be a huge outcry in Syria or among its neighbors when Assad is made to pay the bill."
SAUDIA ARABIA: "Tough Issues"
Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh argued (8/31): "The murderers of Al-Hariri, regardless of their affiliations or objectives, are not strangers to the crisis of Lebanon. The first list of suspects, which is now under investigation, might mark the beginning of the exposing of an entire regime. The international and regional situation, which turned Lebanon into a theater of war for a half century, is now repeating its same scenario with new leaders and new tools.... The complicated crises and problems of Lebanon might turn the investigations into a new war."
"Collapse Of The Generals Gang"
Managing editor Jaser Al-Jaser commented in Riyadh’s moderate Al-Jazira (8/31): "The arrest of many Lebanese security heads suspected in Al-Hariri’s assassination points to the collapse of the masterminds of this crime.... The international investigator surprisingly asked to arrest them as accused.... They will remain under arrest as suspects.... The results of the investigation will be announced soon. The international resolution to combat terrorism entitles the international investigator to retain the generals for one year. He must present evidence that confirms their involvement."
"Investigating Assassination Of Al-Hariri"
Mecca’s conservative Al-Nadwa editorialized (8/31): "Assassinating somebody as big as Al-Hariri is an earthquake. He transformed Lebanon from the debris of war to a strong country. The UN Security Council’s concern is not unusual in a case as big as this. The high level of cooperation from the Lebanese government is noteworthy in the investigations. Lebanese Police detained five top Lebanese generals at the request of the Head of the Investigating Committee. The Lebanese government is working hard to prove the capability of the judicial system to apply power and authority."
LEBANON: "What Can We Find In The Account Books Of Lahoud, Sfeir, Aoun And the Majority?"
Imad Marmal in Arab nationalist As-Safir (9/14): "While President Lahoud’s enemies have begun to discuss the characteristics of the new President, assuming that he will leave Ba’abda palace before the end of his extended term, Lahoud insists on staying until the last minute. Lahoud also believes that in order to protect himself...he has to maintain good relations with the Maronite Patriarch. He realized lately that these relations are not at their best these days, so...before he left for New York, he sent a message to the Patriarch.... Furthermore, Lahoud believes...that he is being targeted, through the arrest of his four security chiefs, to get him to present concessions related to the Resistance weapons and Iraq.... He thinks that two of these security chiefs will be released, among them the head of his presidential guard Moustafa Hamdan.... Sources that oppose Lahoud believe that if Lahoud refuses to resign, all options are possible including charging him with high treason."
"Damascus And Washington And Wishful Thinking"
Sarkis Naoum argued in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (9/12): "Syria...realizes that its relations with the U.S. have deteriorated greatly in the last few years...particularly following September 11.... Did Syria try to enhance its relations with the U.S.? Sources believe that there were several Syrian attempts to improve relations with the U.S. However, these attempts were not successful because of two reasons: One, the U.S. had no confidence that Syria wanted to establish long term solid relations with the U.S. based on the new reality in the region following September 11.... Two, the U.S. was not satisfied with Syria’s decision not to take decisive action on the U.S. requests from Syria.... As for Syria, it seems that it believes the following: Syria does not want to be in conflict with the U.S.; it wants to have cooperation and friendly relations with the U.S.... Syria believes that former Secretary of State Colin Powell participated in making the U.S.-Syrian relations worse.... During his meeting with Assad he only discussed one point, however, after the meeting he told the press about issues that were never discussed during the meeting. Syria believes that, in cooperation with Iran, it will be able to help the U.S. calm the situation in Iraq. Similar to his father, Bashar’s first five years in the presidency were used to solidify his presidency. His father Hafez Assad also needed five years in order to become the only decision-maker in Syria. Bashar has passed these five years successfully and is becoming the only decision-maker in Syria. Syria will not abandon the Ba'ath Party, however, it is also preparing for an important role for the liberals. Soon the liberals will be represented in the Syrian government. Syria confirms that the Ba’ath Party is the strongest Party and denies the presence of a radical Islamic current in Syria. It says that it is open to moderate Islam. Syria has enhanced its relations with Saudi Arabia. It also believes that new security contacts will start soon with the U.S. through the visit of a senior U.S. security official.... Many believe that the above Syrian position on the U.S. is only ‘wishful thinking’."
"Concern At The Arab League Over The Impact Of The 'Truth'"
George Alam opined in Arab nationalist As-Safir (9/9): "The impact of the results of the investigation was obvious at the Arab League--as if everyone is beginning to realize the identity of the assassin, the punishment, and the security, political, and economic impact of this assassination on Lebanon.... Lebanese Foreign Minister Salloukh met with the Syrian Foreign Minister and the meeting was friendly and frank. However, both the Lebanese and the Syrian delegations were the target of other delegations’ questioning stares.... The Arab League Secretary General did not hide his concern, not only about Lebanon but the Arab world as a whole.... It was noted that many Arab Foreign Ministers were scheduled to leave immediately after the morning meeting, however, many amended their programs to listen to Prime Minister Seniora’s remarks ‘as a sign of respect to the blood of Prime Minister Hariri’."
"The President’s Battle On Two Fronts"
Rafiq Khoury claimed in centrist Al-Anwar (9/9): “The issue is not whether Lahoud should go to the UNGA.... The real issue is that Lebanon is facing tremendous changes at a time when many countries around the world are holding a dialogue about Lebanon while there is no dialogue between the Lebanese themselves.... As for the Lebanese President, he is involved in two battles: On one hand he is fighting a local battle in which he has to respond to all those who attack him.... On the other hand, he is fighting a battle outside Lebanon in which he continues to insist that he is going to New York to make sure that Lebanon is present on the international arena.... The Washington Post reported that the international community is working on creating an atmosphere that is supportive to Lebanon.... However, it seems that it plans to discuss its support to Lebanon with the head of the Lebanese Parliamentary majority Saad Hariri, and not with President Lahoud.”
"Talk Of Presidential Changes Subsides"
Zeina Abu Rizk asserted in English-language The Daily Star (9/9): “Talk of moving President Emile Lahoud from office has diminished substantially in the past few days. It seems that there has been a divergence among the centers of power as to the benefit of such a step in the short term, and apprehension over who may take Lahoud’s place.... Those in favor of Lahoud’s departure many find it wiser to wait for Lahoud to leave of his own accord after having been pressured by the findings of the Mehlis investigation. In the meantime, judging from the Wednesday cabinet session, the price that Lahoud will have to pay to stay in office is extremely costly. During this session he was forced to comply with legislation authorizing the opening of a new prison in the Internal Security Forces headquarters.... Now he will have to swallow his pride and accept many further concessions to stay in office, especially if the Shiite parties are not on his side."
"Mehlis Seeks To Discover The Syrian Security Mechanism In Lebanon"
Nicolas Nassif stated in independent, moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (9/6): “According to highly informed sources, Mehlis is going to Damascus with evidence and information about a Syrian role in Hariri’s assassination.... Mehlis is insisting on holding his investigation in Damascus because...he hopes to entrap a number of Syrian officials. The list of the Syrian officials with whom Mehlis wants to meet has three names. However, it is believed that there is another list of four people who hold key positions in the Syrian regime...some are even relatives of Assad.... Lebanese officials believe that there is ‘an important Syrian personality’ in the Syrian regime that had a prominent role in managing Hariri’s assassination. This personality was the only one able to bring all four Lebanese security chiefs to one table, given their hatred for one another. As for Mehlis, it seems that he has taken the advice of his predecessor Peter Fitzgerald who told him not to trust the Lebanese security agencies and the Lebanese judiciary. For this reason he did not reveal to the Lebanese judiciary any information he has about the Syrian role in the assassination. Mehlis has also been conducting investigations with low-ranking Lebanese officers to understand exactly the kind of missions with which they were entrusted, particularly those related to Syrian officers. They were also asked questions that aimed at discovering the mechanism of the Lebanese-Syrian security relation. In addition to uncovering the truth about Hariri’s assassination, it seems that Mehlis wants to understand the mechanism of the Lebanese-Syrian intelligence and its relations to politics.”
"Mehlis' Suspect List: Eight Lebanese And Syrian Security Agencies Did The Crime!"
Ibrahim Al-Amin alleged in Arab nationalist As-Safir (9/6): “Ten days ago, Mehlis decided to move the investigation to the next phase...Mehlis believes that the following events took place: Following the decision to extend Lahoud’s term in office...several currents and officials felt that Prime Minister Hariri was a fundamental obstacle to Lebanon’s stability. A decision to remove Hariri was taken. The task was given to Lebanese officers.... These officers were told to meet in a certain apartment that was owned by a person who has a relationship with a Syrian intelligence official in Beirut, Jameh Jameh. During these meetings a plan was formulated. Two arenas for the assassination were chosen.... A scenario was agreed upon and the...Mitsubishi car was brought from the Syrian free market.... There are many other angles to the story...but according to Mehlis nine Syrian officials who work in four Syrian security agencies participated in assassinating Hariri, in addition to the four Lebanese security chiefs.”
"Hizballah Is Getting Ready For All Options"
Kassem Kassir asserted in Arab nationalist As-Safir (9/5): “Hizballah officials did not expect the Lebanese security chiefs to be implicated in Hariri's assassination.... They believed that ‘salafists’ [radical Islamic sect] were responsible because the operation was a suicide operation.... The arrest of the four security chiefs came as a surprise to Hizballah officials who realize that the effect of condemning these suspects will impact negatively Hizballah’s role in Lebanon.... What is Hizballah doing to confront the possible results of the investigation into Hariri’s assassination?... Observers noted that the Hizballah leadership has been preparing for the worst by working on a series of alliances and relations with different Lebanese forces and currents.... These officials believe that the results of the parliamentary elections confirmed the popularity of the Hizballah Party on the public level.... Hizballah believes that its popularity and its political alliances will help it confront all pressures.... Informed sources do not deny that the results of the investigation might impact negatively Hizballah’s status and role, however...they noted that the Party can adjust to all changes.”
"The End Is Not Over Yet"
A commentator noted in centrist Al-Anwar (Internet Version, 9/4): "The Lebanese people are having difficulty believing what they are reading, hearing, and seeing.... The first chapter is over but the end is not. Did anyone pay attention to the fact that Detlev Mehlis has not requested an extension for his mission?"
"The Anthem: Leave, Leave...Oh Lahhud"
Ali Hamadah criticized in independent, moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (Internet Version, 9/3): "Let us put it frankly: The president of the republic has to leave. Emile Lahhud has to go home immediately. Every single day he remains in the position that was reserved for him by the Syrian regime on 3 September, 2004, is a challenge to the Lebanese people, and a diminishment of the post.... Lahhud has afflicted harm on the country and therefore must leave. Our message to you on this black anniversary of the 'mafia-style' extension is leave today before tomorrow. Leave, leave...Oh Lahhud."
"Mehlis And The 'Tenth Door'"
Nabil Bou-Monsef insisted in independent, moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (9/2): “Mehlis’ statements suggests that he had reached ‘most of the truth,’ but the only remaining part is the ‘terrible part.’ It was no coincidence for Mehlis to say one thing and its opposite. On one hand, he insisted that the suspects were innocent until proven guilty, then he stated that they were suspected of planning the murder. Mehlis also said that he expects Syria to cooperate, but also noted that the truth would be reached even if the Syrian door stays closed.... In any case, there is no doubt that this will be the most dangerous autumn Lebanon will face.”
"Early Symptoms Of The Impact Of Mehlis’ Report Locally"
Rosana Bou-Monsef posited in independent, moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (9/2): “The impact of the investigation is beginning to appear.... Prime Minister Seniora responded to the statement issued by the Presidential Palace following Mehlis’ press conference. Seniora and a number of his ministers interpreted President Lahoud’s statement asking the Lebanese judiciary to study the files carefully and make sure of the evidence as...interference in the work of the judiciary.... Seniora’s response is a new way to manage the government and the relationship with President Lahoud.... As for the President, there is no doubt that pressure to get him to resign is intensifying...and is rapidly becoming a crisis for the Maronites. They can look away no longer, particularly if Lahoud is charged with the moral responsibility for Hariri’s murder.”
"Paris' Meeting: Isolating Lahoud And Convincing Sfeir And Nasrallah To Abandon Him"
Ibrahim Al-Amin went on to say in Arab nationalist As-Safir (9/2): “There is an ongoing discussion in Paris about the Lebanese Presidency, and political, security and economic stability in Lebanon.... According to visitors to Paris, Members of Parliament Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri are leading a serious political effort that aims at solidifying political agreement with the Shi’a and, activate consultations with Maronite Patriarch Sfeir. Apparently, Hariri and Jumblatt want to convince both Hizballah and Maronite Patriarch Sfeir to abstain from protecting Lahoud and not take any step to obstruct efforts seeking presidential change.”
"First Year Of The Extension"
Bechara Charbel emphasized in independent Al-Balad (9/2): "Lahoud clarified his position following Mehlis’ press conference. Now we know that he will not leave his Presidency because he is concerned about the Constitution...and we also know that he is interested in expediting the release...of his close friend–one of the security chiefs. We wonder! Did the President think about talking to the Lebanese on the occasion of the first anniversary of his extension in office?... The Lebanese deserve to have their President talk to them about the extent of his responsibility for what happened for the last 12 months of pain. He should also include in his statement a logical analysis for the reasons that made him extend his term.... This last year might have been one of the most tragic years in the history of the new Lebanon.... Since the President does not want to resign, the Lebanese have the right to expect him to give ample justification for staying in office."
"Decline And Fall, The Mehlis Way"
Michael Young held in English-language The Daily Star (9/1): “Mehlis...is dismantling the old Syrian-Lebanese intelligence order. This suggests that further arrests are possible--both among those politicians moonlighting as Syrian intelligence agents and additional mid-level security personnel. The man who will pay the greatest political price locally is Lahoud, who for too long blithely sauntered around with Mustapha Hamdan in tow, ignoring Mehlis’ description of the chief of the Republican Guard as a suspect in the Hariri inquiry.... There have been suggestions in recent press analyses that Assad is out to cut a deal, any deal, to salvage his regime. In exchange for being declared innocent of the Hariri hit by Mehlis, the Syrians are said to be willing to do whatever the United States wants them to--in Iraq, Lebanon, on the Palestinian front, and on the Golan Heights. The buzz is that Assad’s visit to New York for the annual General Assembly session is designed to reach such an arrangement with the Bush administration.... If Mehlis uncovers Syrian involvement, his search is unlikely to stop midway up the intelligence hierarchy; it will probably affect central figures in the leadership. The UN report is a pistol aimed at the heart of the Syrian regime, and Assad knows that both in Washington and Paris there are many just dying to pull the trigger. Given that reality, a mad tradeoff is his only way out.... Syria long ago lost its bargaining credibility.... Most Lebanese will accept the truth, if that truth is Syrian culpability for Hariri’s assassination. More doubtful is what happens if Hizballah--the target of recent speculation--is found to have played a role.... Meanwhile, Mehlis will have to carefully weigh how his conclusions affect the very objectives his investigation is supposed to advance--namely allowing Lebanon to transcend the pathologies of Syrian domination...and rediscover its unity. If his findings are likely to lead to disunity and undermine the 'exclusive authority’ of the Lebanese government over its territory, he will have to temporary play political analyst rather than criminal investigator."
"The Hole Is Widening"
Sahar Baasiri judged in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (8/31): “We can only conclude from the measures taken by the UN commission investigating Hariri’s assassination, that the truth...passes through those who were summoned for investigation as suspects. Those suspects are the most prominent Lebanese symbols of the joint Syrian-Lebanese security regime that tyrannized Lebanon for its own interests.... They became so arrogant that they were certain no Lebanese would be bold enough to hold them accountable for the crime.... A promise to reach the truth is saying to those who assassinated Hariri that they are either complete fools or were blinded by their power.... We just hope that the Lebanese will not be affected by the results of the investigation.... The time is not for arguments and fights but for working together and building a security and judiciary system that would place us at the level of countries that deserve their independence and sovereignty.”
"To The Lebanese"
Bechara Charbel remarked in independent Al-Balad (8/30): “If President Lahoud continues to believe that he can still hold the presidency as an effective party in determining political options...then he is certainly wrong. Obviously, arresting the head of the Presidential guard does not mean that President Lahoud knew what Hamdan was doing. But, there is no doubt that the fire has reached the President’s bedroom.... President Lahoud made a mistake when he provided cover for the security regime ever since he was the Army commander. He made a mistake when he extended his term of office and made an even bigger mistake when he did not present his resignation to the Lebanese following Hariri’s assassination. Now he will have to face his destiny. Sticking with the Resistance [Hizballah] and denouncing UNSCR 1559 and calling attention to achievements during his army days will no longer work for him.... The best thing Lahoud can do now is go to the official Lebanese Tele-Liban TV station and bid farewell to the Lebanese.”
"Mehlis Discovered With Surprise The Lebanese Distrust In Their Security And Judicial Institutions"
Ali Hamade questioned in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (8/30): "Why did Mehlis talk in his Progress Report about the Lebanese distrust in their judicial system?... A European source revealed that, at the beginning of his mission, Mehlis wanted to cooperate with the Lebanese judiciary system.... However, when he went deep into the investigations, he discovered to his great surprise, the extent of the Lebanese distrust in their judicial system. He noted that 75 percent of the witnesses stipulated that their identities not be revealed. As for the key witnesses, they were adamant about not giving the information they have to the Lebanese authorities.... Mehlis understood that he could not reveal everything he knows to the Lebanese Judiciary.... The issue of moving a Lebanese court outside Lebanon is being discussed to provide the best protection, neutrality, and independence to the Lebanese judges. In any case, the final evaluation of the compatibility of the Lebanese judiciary will be through a joint Lebanese-international process."
SYRIA: "Respect For International Legitimacy"
Isam Dari stated in government-owned Tishreen (Internet Version, 9/7): "Syria is the country with the highest respect for international legitimacy.... The U.S. administration, which launched a war against Iraq and Afghanistan behind the back of the UN, and which protects Israel from punishment and creates the appropriate climate for it to continue its violations of the laws of earth and heaven and to depart from the international legitimacy and ignore UN resolutions, continues to show enmity toward Syria for no reason other than the Israeli issue. It continues to level false and absolutely baseless accusations on Damascus.... The enemies of international legitimacy are the ones who are installing themselves as its advocates."
"Syria's Interest In The Truth"
Fouad Mardoud went on to say in the government-owned Syria Times (Internet Version, 9/7): "Syria has no reason to be concerned by Detlev Mehlis' continuing probe into the assassination of Former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon. Damascus is aware of the increased dangers facing Lebanon and the whole of the Middle East if the truth about the killing of Hariri is uncovered.... Syria... reaffirmed her readiness to fully cooperate with all efforts to reach the truth.... Nobody has doubts about the honesty of prosecutor Mehlis or about his ability to discover the truth. His investigations will make sense if they have a clear and consistent purpose. But some people--inside and outside Lebanon--do not like to see this case here. They are trying to direct Mehlis investigations in the wrong direction, and drive him into a hollow circle. They do have a hidden agenda and seem ready to do anything to implement it."
"Towards Cementing Righteousness And Justice"
Khalid al-Ashhab, a columnist in government-owned Al-Thawra, recognized (9/1): "Any sensible and fair logic would say without doubt that Syria cannot have any connection whatsoever with the Al-Hariri assassination.... Syria is confident that the report of the UN investigation commission will acquit it, but there is fear that pressure from some parties with special interests might succeed in giving the commission's report a political nature and overloading it with political purposes and objectives that have now become known and exposed.... 'Syria's full readiness to cooperate with the investigation commission and provide it with the information it needs,' as President Assad said, is conclusive proof that Syria is eager and willing to reveal the whole truth and know the real culprits, whose only aim was to harm Syria and its relations with Lebanon and undermine the bonds of coordination and brotherhood between the two countries.... There is great hope that the investigation commission will end what it has begun with full objectivity and integrity, as this would serve the justice that all of us seek."
"Syria Has Real Interest in Exposure of the Crime"
Muhammad Ali Buza, an editorialist in government-owned Al-Thawra, explained (8/30): "President Al-Assad's assertion that Syria will cooperate fully with the UN commission investigating Al-Hariri's assassination came as an unpleasant surprise to those who traded in Al-Hariri's assassination crime and exploited it to harm Syria and its positions.... Al-Assad's remarks totally foiled the plans of those who preferred to fish in murky waters and who mastered the art of creating confusion, lying, leveling ready accusations, and drawing strength from foreigners and embassies to undermine Syrian-Lebanese relations.... These people went too far in their wagers and incitement and showed much hatred, hostility, and ingratitude to Syria through their dirty exploitation and manipulation of a crime they know well the identity of its perpetrators and the parties involved in and benefiting from it. Syria has a real interest in revealing the truth because it is the party most harmed by the assassination and its repercussions."
Ahmad Dawwa, an editorialist in government-owned Al-Thawra, maintained (8/30): "Sulayman Franjiyeh, the Lebanese interior minister at the time of Al-Hariri's assassination, exposed that some people close to Al-Hariri's family, whom he identified, wanted him to adopt certain theories that many politicians and media figures were promoting regarding the way Al-Hariri was killed.... The people whom the former interior minister named must say who asked them to go to the minister to convince him to adopt a certain security theory to the exclusion of others.... Any reluctance to offer such clarifications to the Lebanese people is unacceptable in light of the explicit revelations by the former interior minister who was supervising the investigations.... It was clear from the first moment after the crime that some Lebanese political quarters were trying to exploit the crime and accuse certain parties. For this purpose, many stories and accusations were made against this party or that. So it is necessary to examine the objectives and dimensions of those accusations and whether they were meant only for political exploitation of the crime or for other objectives. It is in the interest of Lebanon and the region to reveal the real culprits. This requires conducting a comprehensive review of the climates, statements, and accusations that immediately followed the crime and providing clarifications about them."
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