Wed, Aug 31, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Lebanese security chiefs arrested in Hariri investigation

AP , BEIRUT, LEBANON

Police arrested three former Lebanese security chiefs yesterday at the request of the UN investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Lebanese security officials said.

Chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis wants to question the former security chiefs, who are pro-Syria, the officials said, speaking on on condition of anonymity owing to the investigation's sensitivity.

The detainees were: Major General Jamil Sayyed, the former chief of General Security; Major General Ali Hajj, the former director general of the Internal Security Forces; and Brigadier General Raymond Azar, the former director general of military intelligence.

The arrests were the first since Hariri and 20 people were killed in a massive bomb in Beirut on Feb. 14.

Assassination

The detainees have previously been questionned by Mehlis, the German prosecutor who is leading the UN Security Council-mandated investigation into the assassination.

Mehlis also asked for former legislator Nasser Qandil, a staunch supporter of Syria, to be detained for questioning, the officials said. But when police went to Qandil's house in Beirut, he was not there and his wife said he was in Syria, the officials said.

A fifth person, Brigadier General Mustafa Hamdan, the pro-Syrian head of Lebanon's Presidential Guards, was told he must come to Mehlis' office for questioning, the officials said. Hamdan has previously been questioned by Mehlis.

Dismissal

All three former security chiefs detained had stepped down in April as calls mounted for their dismissal from Lebanese politicians opposed to Syria. Many Lebanese blamed Hariri's assassination on Syria and pro-Syrian elements of their government. Syria and its Lebanese allies denied any involvement.

The killing of Hariri, who was seen as being quietly opposed to Syria's role in Lebanese affairs, was a turning point in Lebanese history.

Pressure

It provoked massive demonstrations against Syria and the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon, and it intensified international pressure on Syria to leave its western neighbor.

The pressure forced the resignation of the government and led to Syria's withdrawing its troops from Lebanon in late April, ending a 29-year military presence in the country.

Hariri, who was prime minister for 10 of the past 12 years, presided over Lebanon's reconstruction after the 1975-90 civil war. He was also a billionaire businessman.

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