Syria denies intent to assassinate Lebanon's Hariri

Saad Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader, said on Tuesday Syria was plotting to kill him and Saniora.

hariri and welch 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
hariri and welch 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Syria dismissed Wednesday as "false and fabricated" a claim by the leader of Lebanon's parliamentary majority that Damascus was plotting to assassinate him and the Lebanese Western-backed prime minister. Saad Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader, made the allegation Tuesday in Cairo, Egypt, where he said there was a Syrian plot to kill him and Prime Minister Fuad Saniora ahead of crucial presidential elections next month. Hariri, whose father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed in a massive Beirut 2005 truck bombing that was widely blamed on Syria, did not elaborate on the details of the plot or say how he knew of it. Rafik Hariri's assassination provoked an outcry that forced Syrian troops to leave Lebanon after a 29-year presence. But when asked about reports that Syrian officials were behind the assassination plot, Saad Hariri said, "We have information about this and it is correct." Syria's official news agency SANA quoted an unnamed Syrian media official Wednesday as challenging Hariri to offer proof of his claim. "In response to Hariri's false accusations ... we ask him to present the documents which he claimed he possesses concerning his fabricated allegations," SANA quoted the official. "Since he (Hariri) possesses this information, why doesn't he present it to the local, Arab and international public opinion?" the official added. Lebanon's anti-Syrian groups that dominate the government and parliament content Damascus is behind a two-year killing spree that has claimed the lives of Hariri and several anti-Syrian politicians and public figures. The latest was the Sept. 19 slaying of lawmaker Antoine Ghanem in a Beirut car bombing, a week before Parliament was to meet to start electing a new president. Syria has repeatedly denied involvement in any of the killings. The US State Department said Tuesday it couldn't confirm Hariri's claim but spokesman Sean McCormack said it was "clear that that there is a pattern of threat, intimidation and use of violence against those who are trying to further the process of political reform in Lebanon." The Lebanese parliament, which is dominated by anti-Syrian groups, is to hold a session Nov. 12 to elect a new president for the country. The parliament failed to meet twice to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, who steps down Nov. 24, and there had been hopes that the presidential vote could break a 10-month political deadlock between Lebanon's US-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition factions led by the militant Hizbullah.