Assad's Brother-in-law Behind Hariri Assassination

The brother-in-law of Syrian ruler Bashar Al-Assad has been implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the German <I>Stern</I> magazine reports.

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Naomi Grossman, | updated: 19:27

Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, chief of military intelligence and second in command in Syria only to the president himself, is directly linked to the attack, according to the report, which is based on the current UN investigation and interviews with Syrian officials.

The Stern report is expected to put Assad, who has recently been trying to appease the West, into a difficult position. He has consistently denied involvement in the powerful bomb attack that claimed Hariri's life and has even promised to bring anyone who had a part in it to justice, calling them "traitors to the Syrian government."

At the same time, the White House expects the UN investigation, which is to publicize its findings very soon, to result in a direct link to Damascus. America continues calling for increased sanctions on Syria, seeming to be distancing itself from thoughts of military action at this time.

While US President George W. Bush favors ousting Assad, American officials are beginning to share Israeli concerns that ousting Assad may result in an Islamic fundamentalist regime coming to power in his place.

The current UN investigation into Hariri's assassination is a first for the international organization. Speaking at the United Nations to Israeli left-wing politician, Dr. Yossi Beilin, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that the investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri was a precedent-setting event because the United Nations has never before investigated a specific murder. He added that the findings of the investigation would be presented to the Security Council.

According to statements made by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom last week, following the suicide of Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan on October 14, Israel is confident that the UN investigation, which is to be released on October 25, will clearly document the connection between Syria and the bomb attack that claimed Hariri's life, further tying the regime of Bashar Al-Assad to terrorism.