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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

SYRIA: Interior minister commits suicide, official news agency says

DUBAI, 12 October 2005 (IRIN) - Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan, an army general who ran formerly ran Syria’s intelligence operation in Lebanon, committed suicide in his office on Wednesday, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.

He died three weeks after being interviewed by UN officials investigating the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was blown up by a truck bomb in Beirut on 14 February.

Many Lebanese accuse Syria of organizing Hariri’s assassination.

The Syrian government denied any involvement in his death.

However, the killing of Hariri sparked off a wave of public protest at Syria’s continued military presence in Lebanon and its alleged interference in Lebanese politics.

This outcry forced Damascus to withdraw 14,000 Syrian troops stationed in the country. It had maintained a military presence there for 29 years.

The UN commission of inquiry investigating Hariri’s murder is due to submit its report to the UN Security Council by 25 October.

There has been much speculation in the international media that this report will implicate the Syrian government directly in his assassination.

Kanaan, who was aged about 62, was Syria’s chief of military intelligence in Lebanon from 1982 to 2002.

He was recalled to Damascus to become the government’s director of political security and was appointed Interior Minister in 2004.

On 30 June, the US government accused Kanaan of supporting terrorism and ordered his assets to be frozen, along with those of Rustum Ghazali, the man who succeeded him as Syria’s intelligence supremo in Lebanon.

US Treasury Secretary John Snow said in a statement at the time that both men were “bad actors supporting Syria’s efforts to destabilize its neighbours.”

SANA gave no details of how or why Kanaan killed himself.

“The cabinet announces the death of Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan in his office at the beginning of the afternoon,” it said in a statement. “The relevant authorities are investigating,” it added.

Shortly before he died, Kanaan gave a telephone interview to the Voice of Lebanon radio station in which he was questioned about the investigation into Hariri’s death.

Kanaan said at one point in the conversation; “I think this is the last statement I might give.”

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance

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