Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- U.N spokesman in Lebanon, Najib Freiji, denied press reports claiming Detlev Mehlis, head of the U.N International Investigation Committee into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, had interviewing Syrian army officers in writing, without ever meeting them face to face. The officers mentioned in the press were, Syria’s former head of security and intelligence in Lebanon, Brigadier General Rustom Ghazaleh, former commander of Syrian intelligence, Colonel Mohammed Khalouf, and his assistant Major Gameh al Ghameh.
Freiji informed Asharq Al Awsat that the questioning of Syrian army officers “must be done face to face and not through written communication.” Reports had alleged Mehlis asked Damascus to set up interview with each of the three officers as part of the ongoing investigation. Syria had indicated to the international body its willingness to cooperate but later asked for the interviews to take place in writing, apparently due to a law forbidding its armed forces from appearing before a foreign judge. The U.N spokesperson rejected these claims and indicated that, “Mehlis has yet to receive a reply for his request for judicial cooperation which he submitted to Damascus almost 3 months ago, at the starts of his mission.”
Meanwhile, in Beirut , informed sources told Asharq Al Awsat, on condition of anonymity, the crime scene by the Saint George Hotel would remain sealed off until the end of the investigation, contrary to earlier claims the area could be reopened after the search for evidence was completed. The sources said Mehlis had painstakingly inspected the scene and that additional investigators planned to arrive to Lebanon to take part in the ongoing investigation, specifically to analyze the scene of the explosion that killed Hariri.
Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, announced late last week that Mehlis requested his mission be extended for a limited period as he completes his report before submitting it to U.N Secretary General Kofi Anan. So far, the international team has interviewed 110 individuals, including the head of presidential guard, Lieutenant General Mustafa Hamdan. Mehlis is expected to present his findings to the U.N Security Council by 15th September, the last day of his three-month mission, which is open to renewal for a further three months upon request.