debkafile Exclusive: Leader of UN Hariri probe formally requests interviews with Assad and a-Shar’a

In Damascus Thursday, Feb. 23, Serge Brammertz, the Belgian leading the UN investigation presented foreign minister Walid Mualem with a request to interview president Bashar Assad and vice present Farouk a-Shar’a on their involvement in the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafiq Hariri a year ago.
This is reported by debkafile`s Beirut sources.
He gave the Syrian leaders until the end of February at latest to assent. Their refusal will send Brammertz back to UN secretary Kofi Annan to report on Syria’s non-cooperation with the probe – in breach of a UN Security Council resolution.
The Belgian investigator notified the Syrian official that he is preparing applications for the issue of international detention warrants against suspects in the crime and expects the Damascus authorities to execute them.
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice paid a surprise visit to Beirut on Thursday too to show support for the UN team leader’s mission.
She also met secretly with the Maronite Christian Cardinal Boutros Nasrallah Sfeir and persuaded him to throw his weight behind the Saudi-Egyptian blueprint for removing pro-Syrian Emil Lahoud from the Lebanese presidency without riots or a formal impeachment by parliament. King Abdullah and President Hosni Mubarak believe they can push him to resign by relentless pan-Arab pressure. Sfeir initially opposed any steps to sack Lahoud as setting an undesirable precedent for firing a Maronite president.
This week, Mubarak will summon Assad to Cairo and demand that he use his influence to force Lahoud to step down.

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