Syria's deputy foreign minister denied Sunday a UN report's statement that he threatened the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri days before he was assassinated.
"This is totally untrue," Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in a call to a talk show on Syrian state television. "I did not go to Premier Hariri to make threats. I went to him to inform him about my mission and ask him to cooperate in order for the mission to succeed."
The UN report, released Thursday night, refers to a tape of a Feb. 1 conversation between Moallem and Hariri 13 days before the assassination, in which Hariri complained that security services were waging a campaign against him. "But Lebanon will never be ruled from Syria. This will no longer happen," Hariri said, according to the report.
In the first response by a Syrian official named in the report, Moallem said Sunday that his relations with Hariri were based on friendship and their having worked together since the 1980s.
The report said the tape of the conversation "clearly contradicts" the testimony that Moallem gave to the UN commission investigating Hariri's killing on Sept. 20.