Lebanese Christian leader Michel Aoun called on Friday for the creation of an international court to try those responsible for killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Aoun, an anti-Syrian former Lebanese leader who spent 14 years in exile in France, said in a radio interview that he believed Syria still has a hand in intelligence services in Lebanon months after Syrian troops left.
He spoke a day after a U.N. probe implicated top Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials in Hariri's assassination in Beirut on Feb. 14.
"This is legal process that now is up to the international community, because there is more than one country implicated," Aoun told France-Inter radio.
An international court would raise the level of confidence in and "give more transparency" to the legal process, he said, without directly commenting on the suspected role of Syrian officials. Syria called the U.N. report false and politicized.
The assassination sparked an international outcry that led Damascus to pull out its troops from Lebanon in April. At the time of the killing, Syria had about 14,000 troops in Lebanon and essentially controlled the country along with its Lebanese government allies.
The former general said Syria's "acolytes" were still operating in Lebanon, and called for changes to Lebanese intelligence services to strip out Syrian influence, the AP says.
"I wonder why authorities haven't taken the necessary steps until now," he said. "I know branches of the intelligence services that stayed the same and who collaborated with the Syrians."
"It's not easy to uproot Syria after such long years of occupation," he acknowledged, referring to Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon.
On photo: Lebanese Christian leader Michel Aoun.
US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Qadimi signed an agreement on July 26 to formally end the USA's military presence in the country by the end of the year