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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 October 2005, 02:26 GMT 03:26 UK
US demands action on Syria report
A Lebanese soldier in front of a poster of the slain former PM and his son
There are fears the report could add to Lebanon's political turmoil
The UN should act swiftly on a "deeply disturbing" report implicating Syria in Lebanese ex-PM Rafik Hariri's murder, US President George W Bush has said.

A UN probe has found evidence pointing to Syrian and Lebanese links in his bomb death - claims which both deny.

The Security Council will discuss the report and could impose sanctions.

But the UN investigator who wrote the report has had to defend his decision to remove the names of five top Syrians from one section of the final draft.

The names included those of the brother and brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - Maher al-Assad and Asef Shawkat.

KEY UN FINDINGS
Assassins had considerable resources and capabilities
Evidence suggests both Syria and Lebanon were involved
Crime was prepared over several months
Hariri's movements and itineraries were monitored
Highly unlikely Syrian or Lebanese intelligence were not aware of assassination plot

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German Detlev Mehlis insisted at a hastily-arranged news conference that the names had been removed only to maintain their "presumption of innocence", once he learned that his confidential report was to be made public.

In the removed section, a witness names the presidents' relatives as being among five senior Syrians who decided in 2004 to kill Mr Hariri.

The names of three of the five men - plus other senior Syrian and Lebanese officials - remain elsewhere in the report, some accused by witnesses of direct involvement in the plot to kill Mr Hariri.

The report also concluded that the Syrian government had not co-operated fully with the inquiry.

In the US, President Bush said the UN should convene a session as soon as possible to discuss the report.

"Today, a serious report came out that requires the world to look at it very carefully and respond accordingly," he said.

His Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said "there will have to be some way to ensure accountability for what has already been found here".

'False information'

The report, prepared at the request of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, says the bomb attack that killed Mr Hariri could only have been carried out by a group with extensive organisation.

As well as evidence pointing to Syrian involvement, the UN investigators also said they had also found evidence of Lebanese collusion in Mr Hariri's death in February.

The question for us all now is what sanctions can we bring against the guilty?
Ian, Whitwick, England

Mr Hariri's assassination - for which the likely motive was political - was complex and had obviously been planned for months, the report says.

The UN Security Council will be briefed on Tuesday by Mr Mehlis.

Both Syria and Lebanon have denied the allegations of official involvement.

Syria's Information Minister Mehdi Dakhlallah condemned the findings as "politically biased" deceptions and said the report was "far from the truth".

The Lebanese presidency issued a statement denying that the brother of a key figure in the inquiry had called President Emile Lahoud minutes before the truck bomb exploded.

'Impending crisis'

Syria was the main power in Lebanon until its military withdrawal earlier this year in the wake of an international outcry over Mr Hariri's death.

The BBC's Ian Pannell in Damascus says it is widely believed that the Syrian authorities were angered by Mr Hariri's growing opposition to their influence in Lebanon.

Lebanese police secure the scene of the bomb attack that killed Rafik Hariri
Hariri and 22 others died in the car bomb attack on 14 February

Although President Assad has consistently denied any involvement in the killing, the report will add to the sense of impending crisis felt in the country, our correspondent says.

Syria finds itself almost completely isolated, with little support from other Arab nations, and faces the prospect of crippling UN sanctions, he adds.

Since Mr Hariri and 22 other people were killed on 14 February, a series of bomb attacks has targeted anti-Syrian journalists and politicians as well as Christian areas in Lebanon.


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See the aftermath of February's bombing



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