Posted by Joshua on Friday, November 30th, 2007
UNITED NATIONS (AP)–A U.N. inquiry has made progress in linking people to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and is closely examining the possibility that two or more teams may have prepared and carried out the attack, the chief investigator said Wednesday.
While not identifying anyone, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in his final report to the Security Council that progress by the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission in the last four months has led to the identification of new "persons of interest" and new investigative leads.
"The commission has also deepened and broadened its understanding of the possible involvement of a number of persons of interest, including persons who have recently been identified by the commission, who may have been involved in some aspects of the preparation and commission of the crime or who may have known that a plan to carry out the crime was being prepared," Brammertz said.
"In addition to the progress made in linking various persons of interest to the commission of the crime, the commission has also established links between some of these persons," he said, adding that pursuing this line of inquiry will be a priority in the coming months.
Brammertz said the commission also confirmed its hypothesis that "operational links may exist" between the perpetrators of 18 other targeted assassinations and bombings in Lebanon, adding that confirming these links and establishing new links will also be a priority in the near future.
The most recent assassination, of Parliament member Antoine Ghanem on Sept. 19 – just three days after he returned to Beirut from a prolonged trip overseas – showed that the perpetrators were able to conclude their surveillance and arrange a car bomb on short notice, he said.
This and evidence from the Hariri probe and some other attacks confirms "that the perpetrators or groups of perpetrators had and still have advanced and extensive operational capacities available in Beirut," Brammertz said.
It reminds us that the investigation is still proceeding. Some, such as our very own Alex get the sense that the investigation is leading away from Syria. This is a line of inquiry that has been pursed by both T_Desco of Syria comment, who follows the court cases and arrests of the various Islamist groups in Lebanon, and Nibras Khazimi at Talisman's Gate, who translated the testimony of Faisal Akbar—the Saudi citizen who first confessed to a role in the Hariri assassination after he was arrested in January 2006 but then retracted his statement—which was published in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar.
Most observers believe Syria remains very much in the cross hairs of the investigation.
Brammertz has kept his cards very close to his chest. So far there is no indication of a smoking gun. The notion that most evidence is circumstantial is supported by the painfully slow progress the investigation has made and the fact that very few countries seem to have stepped forward to finance the court being set up in the Netherlands or the very expensive investigative team and support staff that will be needed to support it. If there were proof that Syria was involved in the assassination of Hariri, one suspects that various donors would have turned their pockets inside out get the evidence in front of the world as fast as possible.
Here is how THANASSIS CAMBANIS and NADA BAKRI of The New York Times see it:
Syria, the most important outside influence over Lebanese politics, had hesitated until the last minute over whether to attend the conference.
Immediately after the talks, Syrian allies in Lebanon endorsed the first major political breakthrough. Analysts say the talks could thaw strained relations between Syria and the United States.
“The Syrians did not want to go to Annapolis, and without them the conference would have been a failure and would have weakened the Arabs,” said Talal Atrissi, a political analyst and sociologist at Lebanese University. “The Syrians traded their participation, which did not cost them anything, with a deal on the Lebanese presidency.”
Whatever has been 'discussed' between Commander Michel Sleiman and the main supporters of his candidacy (the Egyptians) is still very sketchy. The Head of Egyptian Intelligence, Brig. Omar Suleiman, is a man of very few words, therefore it is still early to know what (if any) perimeters have been discussed and agreed upon..In Beirut, 'parties' are in deep discussing the immediate-post-election period: (1) the formation of a new government, (2) its composition (3) Hezballah's arsenal (4) relations with Syria and (5) the International Tribunal.,.Every time Sleiman inches towards M14, he loses equal 'Opposition'' support, and vice versa.The stew is just about heating up…as Aoun threw back the ball of fire to the ruling clique, MP Samir Jisr (FUTURE) was quick to dispel any notion that MP Houri's (FUTURE) position represents the later ONLY!.Is Saad Hariri that "brilliant"? Is Ammar Houri a Maverick? Does the FUTURE movement group a bunch of yoyos? Take your pick. What is certain is this: Saad Hariri DID NOT CONSULT the die hard members of M14, and now they are pissed!.Please note that Carlos Edde (and the throngs of supporters) 'refuses' to amend the Constitution, and Hisham Melhem (brilliant as usual) said that "there is no evidence whatsoever of a COVERT US-Syrian deal"!! Evidence of a covert deal! Wow!
Lebanese Lawmakers Postpone Election of President Until Dec. 7 By: Massoud A. Derhally | Bloomberg News
Lebanese lawmakers delayed a vote scheduled today for a new president until Dec. 7 as the government and opposition try to agree on Army Commander Michel Sleiman for the post, a spokesman for the Parliament speaker said.
Nur al-Cubicle reminds us that there are still some possible hurrdles to overcome:
Iraq Lacks Plan on the Return of Refugees, Military Says By: Michael R. Gordon and Stephen Farrell | The New York Times
As Iraqi refugees begin to stream back to Baghdad, American military officials say the Iraqi government has yet to develop a plan to absorb the influx and prevent it from setting off a new round of sectarian violence.