Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat– As the international committee investigating the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri prepared to make its initial findings public, a high ranking French source advised the Lebanese not to fear the truth.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al Awsat, the source said, “It is time for the truth to reign in Lebanon” after months of anticipation about the conclusions of the UN team headed by Detlev Mehlis. He said the report would “name all the parties involved in this heinous crime”.
Paris is confident the committee will not rest until it has discovered the truth which is in Lebanon’s best interest. The source added, “No one must fear the results of the investigation.” However, the initial report by Mehlis was unlikely to include all the final details on the car bomb, which killed the former leader in February 2005.
More likely, the Chief of the UN probe “will request an extension for his mission of several weeks” to enable his team to complete the investigation, especially as he has yet to question Syrian military and security officials who were present in Lebanon at the time.
The latest developments in Lebanon will feature heavily in French political circles in the upcoming weeks as French ambassadors from around the world meet for the annual conference from August 29 until August 31. On Monday morning, French President Jacques Chirac is expected to address the meeting and clarify his country’s foreign policy and its position on a number of conflicts and events worldwide, including Lebanon and Syria.
According to the conference program, the situation in Lebanon will be addressed on Monday afternoon in a speech by the French ambassador in Beirut, Bernard Emié, followed by the Minister of foreign affairs, Phillippe Douste Blazy. Lebanon will also be on the cards during a meeting organized the Middle East and North Africa department at the French Ministry for its ambassadors next Thursday.
The source noted that France, as well as the United States and the European Union, “continues to adopt a firm stand towards Lebanon and Syria and is awaiting the truth to emerge regarding Hariri’s assassination.” This is evident in the lack of dialogue between Paris and Damascus and France’s refusal of the sanction the EU association agreement with Syria.
On the challenges faced by the UN probe, the source indicated, “Mehlis will continue to press Damascus for better cooperation as he enjoys the full support of the Security Council.” So far, the Syrian government has repeatedly refused to allow high-ranking senior officials to be questioned by investigators.
As for Lebanon, the source called on the newly established government to announce its reform program, confirm that talks had taken place between Paris, Washington D.C and Brussels to discuss economic aid to Beirut. One of the proposals currently being debated was to hold a conference in aid of Lebanon next autumn. So far, France has denied a date has been set but hoped the meeting would be different from Paris-1 and Paris-2, thereby sending a message to Beirut that the international community is ready to assist the Lebanese but not run their affairs for them.
So far, the Chirac government has succeeded in driving off U.S pressures to apply UN resolution 1559 in full, including disarming Hezbollah. It has recently sent a military delegation to discuss supporting the Lebanese Army and is continuing its efforts in this field independently of U.S policy.