Syrian president indicates rejection of U.N. interview

President &to=' target=_blank>Bashar Assad indicated Saturday his rejection of a second request by U.N. investigators to interview him in the Rafik Hariri assassination, declaring that Syria would not bow to international pressure.

Assad also used his speech to the Arab Lawyers Union to accuse Israel of killing Palestinian leader &to=' target=_blank>Yasser Arafat in 2004, capitalizing on the widespread belief in the Arab world that the longtime leader was poisoned.

"Of the many assassinations that Israel carried out in a methodical and organized way, the most dangerous thing that Israel did was the assassination of President Yasser Arafat," Assad said. "This was under the world's eyes and its silence, and not a single state dared to issue a statement or stance toward this issue, as if nothing has happened in this region."

Arafat died in 2004 in a French hospital from an unknown cause after an illness. French medical records obtained by The Associated Press said he died of a massive stroke caused by a mysterious infection.

Assad's uncompromising tone against the U.N. on what he termed a matter of national sovereignty was certain to further heighten tension with the United States and complicate the seven-month probe into the Feb. 14 truck bombing that killed the former Lebanese premier and 20 others on a Beirut street.

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