Syrians will be questioned over Hariri killing

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The Independent Online

Syria's deputy foreign minister, Walid Moallem, said that the breakthrough came after Syria received "guarantees concerning the rights of the individuals" to be questioned and "reassurances" that its sovereignty would be respected.

A UN commission mandated by the Security Council is investigating the death of Mr Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister, who was killed with 20 others in a bombing in Beirut on 14 February. The commission, headed by the German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, issued an interim report last month which implicated Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services. "The [Syrian] leadership has decided to inform Mr Mehlis that it accepts his suggestion, as a compromise, that the venue to listen to the five Syrian officials be the UN headquarters in Vienna," Mr Moallem said.

His announcement came a day after the Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, criticised Mr Mehlis for refusing Syrian offers on where and how to question the Syrian officials that the commission wishes to interview.

Syria had rejected Mr Mehlis's request to hold the hearings in Beirut, claiming its officials would not be safe there. It is believed that Syria was worried that Mr Mehlis could recommend the arrest of the officials after they were questioned in Lebanon. Lebanon has detained several other suspects at Mr Mehlis's request.

Mr Moallem said the dates and procedures for the Vienna hearings would be worked out soon. He declined to name the Syrian officials to be interviewed. He said they would be accompanied to Vienna by only their lawyers.