PARIS (AP) – A former Syrian vice president pushing for the regime’s overthrow has told French radio that he strongly believes that Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri.
Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who lives in exile in Paris, said he is certain that a U.N. commission investigating the killing “will condemn Mr. Assad, because it is he who is responsible for the assassination of Mr. Hariri.”
Asked whether Assad ordered the February assassination, Khaddam replied, “Yes. It is my intimate conviction.” Khaddam was speaking through a translator in an interview broadcast Tuesday on Europe-1 radio.
Syria has denied accusations of involvement in the massive truck bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri. Syria has accused Khaddam of high treason and the government has seized his assets.
Khaddam was for many years Syria’s top official in Lebanon and was a member of the ruling Baath Party’s regional command, its most influential body, for almost 30 years. He represents an old guard long seen as wary of Assad, who became president after the death of his father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, in 2000. Khaddam resigned in
June, left Syria several months ago, and is holed up in a luxury residence in Paris, guarded by armed French police officers.
Khaddam met last week with investigators from the U.N. commission. Khaddam told Europe-1 that he told them about decision-making in the Syrian security apparatus and that an assassination order “can only be taken by the head of the state.”
Khaddam did not provide proof in the interview to back up his claims that Assad ordered Hariri killed. But he said Assad is a weak, emotive leader who “takes decisions without really measuring their consequences,” is easily influenced and “is very worried. He sleeps very little.”