For those politicos still trying to wrap their heads around the competing intrigues of the assassination of five-time Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, one of Lebanon’s top political blogs, Qifa Nabki, has an interesting post today in which Hariri, allegedly, discusses his fraught relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Senior Syrian security officers, including Bashar’s brother Maher, were named as suspects in an initial unredacted report by an international investigation into Hariri’s killing, but later reports found key witnesses had been proven unreliable.
Indictments are out on four members of Iranian-financed Hezbollah, Syria’s top ally in Lebanon, over the killing of Hariri, which led to the humiliating withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005, followed by a string of assassinations of prominent Lebanese critics of Syria, which ended after pro-Syrian parties secured a blocking third in government.
In an alleged transcript of the final meeting between Hariri and Waleed Mualem, then Syria’s Deputy foreign minister, Hariri reports his indignation at being summoned for a meeting with Assad that lasted only a quarter of an hour.
“First of all, I’m a prime minister, and you summon me to a meeting for fifteen minutes? Ok, so what’s the point?” he asks Mualem.
Hariri had been summoned to Damascus to hear that Assad was intent on forcing through a term extension for the vehemently pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, a move Hariri was believed to be opposed to.
Hariri recounts his meeting with Assad: “On the day of the extension, he summoned me and said: “You always say that you are with Syria, and this will prove if you mean what you say, or if you don’t.” So I said to him: “Mr. President, I’ve been allied with Syria for 25 years. Are you telling me that if I don’t agree with you on this issue, this means I’m against Syria?” He said: “Yes.” So I responded: “I need to think about this.”
The lengthy transcript has been published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Joumhouria, recently launched by former Lebanese Defense Minister Elias al-Murr, who survived an assassination attempt against him in 2005.
Throughout the long meeting, Hariri forcefully denies having played a role in the passage of UN Security Council resolution 1559, which as well as calling for the disarming of Hezbollah, demanded all Syrian troops withdraw from Lebanon.
Hariri says: “I know who is behind UNSCR 1559. [Syrian Foreign Minister] Farouk al-Shara has convinced Bashar that I’m behind it, because he failed and he wants to cover his failure up with me. You’ve known about 1559 since June, and the French told you about it, and the Americans knew. And you know that were it not for the extension [of Lahoud’s presidency], 1559 would never have come out, and you know that this talk [of me being behind it] is wrong.
Mualem answers: “Your Excellency, we want to solve the problem… I have gone to great trouble to come and see you and to convince President Assad. There are intelligence reports about the role of Rafiq al-Hariri in UNSCR 1559.”