Lebanon blamed for failing to protect murdered Hariri

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A highly sensitive report released by the United Nations last night criticised the attempts by Lebanon's authorities to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last month and demanded the creation of an independent international commission to get to the bottom of who perpetrated his murder.

A highly sensitive report released by the United Nations last night criticised the attempts by Lebanon's authorities to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last month and demanded the creation of an independent international commission to get to the bottom of who perpetrated his murder.

There was also unsparing criticism of the Lebanese security teams in Beirut, saying that they showed "systematic negligence" in providing protection for the former prime minister. At the same time, the report points an accusing finger at the Syrian intelligence force, saying it bore primary responsibility for the breakdown of security and law and order when a huge car-bomb killed Mr Hariri and 17 other people.

The report was delivered to Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, earlier yesterday by its principle author, the deputy Irish Police Commissioner, Peter Fitzgerald. But its public unveiling was delayed for several hours, suggesting nervousness inside the UN about the strength of its contents.

Mr Fitzgerald urged the Secretary General to call for the urgent establishment of an international commission to look further into the killing and to "find the truth" about who was responsible. His report makes no attempt to make any allegations of its own about who may have committed the atrocity.

While Mr Fitzgerald does not come close to linking Syria directly to the bombing, he blamed the country for contributing to the political tensions that were present in Lebanon before the death of Mr Hariri. "The government of Syria clearly exerted influence that goes beyond the reasonable exercise of co-operative and neighbourly relations," his report said. "It interfered with the detail of governance of Lebanon in a heavy-handed and inflexible way that was the primarily reason for the political polarisation that ensued"

In Beirut, the President of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, responded to the report's release by telling Mr Annan that his government would do "what is necessary" to help find out who was behind the attack.

In withering terms, the report says that the team led by Mr Fitzgerald found a "distinct lack of commitment" on the part of the Lebanese authorities to uncover the plot. The efforts they had made to uncover the truth had not been carried out "in accordance with international standards", it went on.

Mr Fitzgerald and his colleagues went to Lebanon at the behest of the UN Security Council. Members of the Council said they wanted the fact-finding mission to report on "the circumstances, causes and consequences of the assassination". Behind the request were widely reported suspicions that Syria might have been behind the murder.

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