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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Syria probe backs suicide theory
Syrian police officer salutes passing funeral cortege
The coffin was taken to Kanaan's home town by ambulance
Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan committed suicide on Wednesday with his own gun shortly after a brief visit home, an official inquiry has found.

After examination of the body and questioning witnesses the case has now been closed, the chief prosecutor said.

The former intelligence chief was for years the most powerful figure in Lebanon during Syrian domination.

Mr Kanaan was buried on Thursday after a huge funeral convoy from Damascus to his home town of Bhamra.

An ambulance decked with flowers and followed by dozens of official cars carried the coffin.

His body was wrapped in a Syrian flag and displayed outside the mosque before it was buried in a tomb that villagers said he dug himself four years ago, near the graves of his father and mother.

There was a wreath from President Bashar al-Assad's office on display, as well as several medals Mr Kanaan won during his long military career.

Cause of death

"Examination of the body and fingerprints as well as testimony from employees, including senior aide General Walid Abaza, indicated that it was a suicide by gunshot," Prosecutor Muhammad al-Luaji said quoted by the official news agency.

Ghazi Kanaan, 6 June 2005
I wanted to exclusively give you this statement... for I believe this is the last statement I might make
Ghazi Kanaan to Voice of Lebanon

"It was established that the cause of death was suicide using General Kanaan's personal revolver, a .38 calibre Smith and Wesson. [He] put the barrel of his gun in his mouth and fired a bullet," he said.

Shortly before, the minister had spent 45 minutes at his home, although it has not been reported what he did there.

Correspondents say the investigation by Syria's notoriously opaque regime will do little to dampen speculation about the circumstances of Mr Kanaan's death.

'Brave man'

The death came a week before the UN is to publish a report into the killing of Lebanon's former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, which many Lebanese blamed on Syria although Damascus denies it.

One of the leaders in Lebanon of the anti-Syrian opposition, Walid Jumblatt, said on Thursday that if Kanaan had been involved in the assassination of Mr Hariri, he had been a "brave man" to kill himself.

"If Gen Ghazi Kanaan is responsible somehow or somewhere for the assassination... then he did well, if I may say, by committing suicide," Mr Jumblatt said.

Washington described Mr Kanaan as a "central figure in Syria's occupation of Lebanon for many years" but has declined to comment on the circumstances of his death.

"I don't believe it was a suicide," said former US Mid-East mediator Dennis Ross, in remarks quoted by Associated Press.

If the UN report pointed to Syrian involvement in Mr Hariri's death, Mr Ross said, Mr Kanaan was likely to be implicated because of his seniority and prominence.

Mr Kanaan, 63, was Syria's top security official in Beirut from 1982. He returned to Damascus in 2002 as political intelligence chief and went on to join the cabinet in 2004.

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