Who killed Hariri? Fisk's theory

Here are more details on the Fisk article I mentioned yesterday:

In his article, Fisk said the report of the United Nations inquiry team "will be so devastating that it will force a full international investigation of the murder of 'Mr. Lebanon' and his entourage, perhaps reaching to the higher echelons of the Syrian and Lebanese governments."


Speaking from New York, a UN spokesperson told The Daily Star that whatever President Bush would announce would not be based on the UN team's findings as the investigation is still ongoing.


He said: "We can neither confirm or deny anything until the team returns to New York and presents its findings to the secretary general."


According to The Independent, The UN team, made up of Irish, Egyptian and Moroccan investigators and recently joined by Swiss bomb experts, has discovered that many of the vehicles from Hariri's convoy "were moved from the scene of the massacre only hours afterward - and before there was time for an independent investigation."


Now, one thing about Fisk is that among Middle East journalists he has a reputation for sometimes, er, making things up or at the very least exaggerating his case to get attention. It's slightly disturbing that he quotes no sources in his story.

The Fisk report was brought up at the White House press briefing with Scott McClellan:

Q Scott, on another matter, there was a report out of The Independent from a Beirut reporter, Robert Fisk, who said that the President was expected to announce on Wednesday that Syrian and perhaps Lebanese military intelligence officers were involved in Hariri's death. Is that true, and do you have any update on the investigation?


MR. McCLELLAN: I have no idea where that report came from. The United Nations is continuing their investigation. It's important that the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Hariri, be fully investigated. And we look forward to seeing what the results of the investigation are. But the United Nations is continuing in their investigation, and we have not seen any update on that and any final results of that investigation.


Q Can I follow up on that?


MR. McCLELLAN: Sure.


Q On Wednesday, the President is going to meet with the Lebanese Maronite Christian Patriarch. Is the President expected to -- planning to persuade him to get involved in this whole issue of getting Syria out of Lebanon?


MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think he has been involved in the issue of supporting the Lebanese people, and letting -- and supporting their desires to chart their own course, free from outside intimidation and interference. That's one of the reasons the President invited him to come to the United States. His All Holiness is someone who has promoted the religious diversity and culture of the Lebanese people, and he is someone who has been a supporter of freedom and democracy in Lebanon.


And the President -- in terms of the issue of Syria, the President continues to call on Syria to completely withdraw all their military forces and all their intelligence services as soon as possible. It's important that elections proceed without outside intimidation or interference so that they can be free and fair and credible. And that's something we continue to emphasize. We've seen some positive developments, but ultimately it will depend on the action, and not the words, by Syrian officials.


Will President Bush make a declaration with the Patriarch at his side on who killed Hariri tomorrow? I think that would discredit the report more than anything else, if the report is indeed saying that.

Unrelated bonus: from the same briefing, Helen Thomas lives!

MR. McCLELLAN: And this President has been at the forefront of leading the efforts to achieve the two-state vision that he outlined of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. We are at the forefront of those efforts to support the aspirations of the Palestinian people. And we continue to urge all parties to move forward on the road map and meet their obligations.


The United States is continuing to work closely with other countries and continuing to work closely with the parties involved to support their efforts.


Go ahead, Helen.


Q Diplomacy depends on policy. You can't sell what is unsaleable. If the policy remains that we will engage further in preemptive war, you cannot sell it to the Middle East, I'm sure, or anywhere else. So are you going to change any policy?


MR. McCLELLAN: Our policy is to expand freedom and democracy and to support the aspirations of people --


Q By gunpoint?


MR. McCLELLAN: -- and support the aspirations of people in countries around the world that do not have the freedoms that we enjoy. And, no, Helen, the President made it very clear in his inaugural address that it is not primarily the use of arms. It is supporting the aspirations of the people in those countries and doing all we can to stand with those people as they seek greater freedoms. We are standing with the people of Lebanon. We are standing with the people of the Palestinian Territories. We are standing with --


Q> We also invaded Iraq.


MR. McCLELLAN: -- we are standing with the people of Iraq, and the people of Iraq have shown that freedom is a universal value. They stood up and defied the terrorists and went to the polls.


Q And we invaded the country.


MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Terry.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.