Brother Accuses France of Killing Siddiq: US Accuses French and Swiss of Breaking Spirit of Sanctions
Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, April 9th, 2008
DAMASCUS (AFP)–The brother of a Syrian witness in the probe on former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri's murder accused France of involvement in killing the man, in a Syrian newspaper interview published on Wednesday.
"The French authorities helped facilitate the disappearance of Mohammed Zuheir al-Saddiq with the aim of his being liquidated by another party or they liquidated him themselves," charged Imad al-Sadiq.
"My brother was under the protection of French authorities," he told Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the Syrian government.
Saddiq, who lives in Damascus, accused "Lebanese parties", including Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, of having plotted "with the French to kill (my) brother."
"The assassins want the finger of blame to be pointed at Syria, on the basis that it was the only party to benefit from his disappearance."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Tuesday that the witness, a former intelligence officer, had disappeared from his suburban home in the French capital.
"But I do not know under what conditions and if there was a police presence to watch him," he said.
Saddiq, who was under an international arrest warrant requested by a Lebanese prosecutor, was detained in October 2005 in a Paris suburb in connection with the February 2005 assassination of Hariri.
France refused to extradite him to Lebanon because it hadn't been given guarantees that he wouldn't be liable to the death penalty there if convicted of a crime.
Saddiq's family says it has had no contact with him for two months.
Newspaper reports in 2006 quoted him as saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his then Lebanese counterpart, Emile Lahoud, ordered the Hariri assassination in a massive Beirut car bombing.
A political crisis that has rattled the country since the murder is widely seen as an extension of the regional confrontation pitting the U.S. and its Saudi ally against Iran and Syria.
Addendum: (2 hours after posting) Syria has not arrested anyone, and certainly not a Saudi, in connection with the Mughniyeh murder. The Fars News agency and Jerusalem Post are muckraking here. And as MSK points out in the comments, all diplomats, including Saudis have immunity.
Syria arrests Saudi in Mughniyeh probe from Jerusalem Post
Syria has arrested a Saudi official in connection with the assassination of top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported Tuesday.
The agency quoted an Iranian source as saying a high-ranking defense official in Saudi Arabia's embassy in Damascus was arrested by Syrian security forces.
The source said Israel masterminded the assassination, but the operation itself was carried out by locals with Syrian, Jordanian and Palestinian citizenships. These men bought or rented apartments near Mughniyeh's place of residence in Damascus and surveyed his activities from there, the source said.
The Saudi official, he said, was connected to a Syrian woman in whose name were registered the two explosives-laden cars used to kill Mughniyeh.
Fars also claimed that the results of the Syrian inquiry should have already been published, and blamed the delay on pressure from Gulf states including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
GENEVA (AFP) –shrugged off a renewed attack over a gas supply deal with Wednesday, after a Jewish group took out full page ads in international and Swiss newspapers charging that the country is funding terror.
Industry leaders and the government reiterated that international laws and regulations were respected in the deal and that the allegations by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) "did not correspond to the facts".
Advertisements headed, "Guess who is the world's newest financier of terrorism? Switzerland," appeared in the, and on Tuesday.
In Switzerland, the advertisements in newspapers Le Matin Bleu, Le Temps, andcharged: "When you finance a terrorist state, you finance terrorism."
Explaining the move, the ADL said it is "concerned that Iran's profits from the energy deal could help the regime to accelerate and complete its nuclear weapons program".
It could also "provide tens of thousands of additional missiles toand , two terrorist groups and sworn enemies of who routinely benefit from Tehran's largesse," the ADL said.
The deal, signed during Swiss Foreign Minister's visit to Tehran mid-March, had earlier come under sharp condemnation from the United States and Israel.
Financial details were not disclosed but the contract between Iran's state gas firm and Switzerland's Elektrizitaets-Gesellschaft (EGL) Laufenburg reportedly envisages Iran supplying 5.5 billion cubic metres (194 trillion cubic feet) of gas annually from 2011.
A Swissstressed Wednesday that the state of Switzerland is not involved in the deal.
But he said the contract "is in full conformity with the existing UN sanctions against Iran", as well as the US Iran Sanctions Act.
He also pointed out that there are at least 10 other countries with major energy deals with Iran, including, and .
While he would not comment on specific elements in the advertisements, he said that "all those reproaches in those paid ads do not correspond with the facts".
Swiss industry leaders too, were unfazed by the criticism.
EGL spokesman Bogdan Preda said Wednesday he had no further comment on the issue, other than to reiterate that the deal "respected all national and international agreements".
The president of Swiss energy group Axpo, of which EGL is a member, Heinz Karrer, told tabloid Blick that it is "incomprehensible" that Switzerland is seen to be financing terrorism, pointing out that "many other countries" also obtain energy from Iran.
Head of thebusiness umbrella group Gerold Buehrer also told the newspaper that he "stood behind the deal at the beginning", and that he "still stands behind it".
The US embassy in Bern said at the time that it believes the deal "violates the spirit of the sanctions" imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council in a bid to try to force Iran to give up its programme of uranium enrichment and cooperate further with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Even Calmy-Rey's visit itself was keenly watched, with Swiss politicians and observers criticising her for wearing a headscarf in Iran.
"Just like an oppressed woman!" charged the headline of the tabloid Le Matin, which splashed a picture of Calmy-Rey with the scarf on its front page.
Calmy-Rey justified her action by saying that "I have always been told that when you are a guest, you respect local customs."