London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton has stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that he has no doubt that Syria had a hand in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination adding that the issue became international after clear proof of Syrian involvement in the Feb. 2005 bombing.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Bolton said that everyone who understands the Middle East believes that Syria was involved in Hariri’s killing, a charge Damascus denies.
“I believe that everyone not just in Washington but also in Europe and all those who understand Middle East affairs believed that Syria was involved,” Bolton told Asharq Al-Awsat. The issue became international because of “clear proof of Syrian involvement.”
“I don’t think that the investigators have any doubt” regarding Syria’s involvement in the assassination, Bolton said.
He said Washington backed an international investigation into the assassination at the time because of “Syrian penetration of security services and the judicial system in Lebanon.”
“The Lebanese alone are not capable of conducting a full and impartial investigation,” Bolton said, adding that for this reason Washington looked for a way to help the Lebanese and the “democratically elected government of Premier (Fouad) Siniora.”
He said the international tribunal’s main message is directed towards Syria and Iran.
“We know what they (Syria and Iran) were trying to do in Lebanon. The tribunal is an effort to prevent that from happening because if people understood that Syria was behind Hariri’s assassination, this would definitely hamper efforts for their return to Lebanon,” Bolton added.
He said Hariri’s murder along with other attacks on political and media figures in Lebanon was aimed at destroying Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty.
Bolton also added that Washington had backed efforts to expand the probe into Hariri’s assassination to include the other killings because it looked like there was a “pattern” in the murders.
He stressed that the U.S. won’t put pressure on the tribunal which would function independently and the judges will reach their own verdicts.
In other news, signaling a possible thaw in relations, Syria’s ambassador to Washington will meet a senior U.S. diplomat on Thursday, the highest-level contact between the two nations since the Obama administration took office.
A State Department official said on Tuesday Syrian ambassador Imad Mustafa accepted a rare invitation to come to the department to meet acting head of the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, Jeffrey Feltman, who was U.S. ambassador to Lebanon.
“We see this as an opportunity to explore those areas where we have potential for progress,” the official told the Reuters news agency of the meeting.
State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said last Friday the United States also wanted to discuss Damascus’ support for “terrorist groups” and its pursuit of nuclear and non-conventional weaponry.
U.N. inspectors said last week that graphite and more uranium traces were found in samples taken from a Syrian site that Washington says was an almost built graphite nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel in September 2007, and this is expected to be raised by Feltman.