Syria allegedly banned paper for Hariri coverage

Syria barred the distribution of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat because of an interview it published with the outgoing head of the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the paper's editors said Wednesday. In the interview, published Dec. 17, investigator Detlev Mehlis, said he was confident that Syrian authorities were behind the bomb blast that killed Hariri on Feb. 14. An editor at the London-based Asharq al-Awsat told The Associated Press that the paper had not been distributed in Syria since Tuesday. "We received a letter from the Syrian government telling us that the newspaper will not longer be allowed to be circulated, citing editorial policies hostile to Syria," Nishari al-Thayidi said. Syria demanded that the paper retract the interview with Mehlis, which Asharq al-Awsat refused to do, al-Thayidi said. He did not say how long the ban was expected to last. A Syrian Information Ministry official denied late Wednesday that Damascus had banned the paper.