Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed accusations by his ex-vice president that he had threatened former Lebanese PM ahead of the latter's assassination, an Egyptian newspaper has reported.
The remarks to Egypt's El Osboa newspaper are Assad's first in response to former Syrian vice president Abdel-Halim Khaddam's criticism on him. In the interview, Assad accused Khaddam of plotting against Syria before resigning in June and also hinted that, as president of Syria, he would be immune from questioning by an international team investigating Hariri's February murder.
According to Assad, there are no "legal bases" for questioning him or his foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa. The UN investigators should, instead, look towards Israel, "the prime beneficiary" from Hariri's murder.
Asked about Khaddam's accusation that he threatened Hariri, Assad said: "This incident did not happen. The aim of spreading these allegations is to link the threat to the assassination. The game is clear." Khaddam, according to Assad, was "an implementing tool in a conspiracy to bring (Syria) to its knees, extract great concessions and block many of our national and regional plans."
Meanwhile, the Beirut-based An Nahar reported Saturday U.N. Chief Investigator Detlev Mehlis and his team met Khaddam at his home in France. The report said the meeting Friday focused on Khaddam's assertions that Hariri had been threatened not only once, but repeatedly by the Syrian President.