Syria's state SANA news service denied today Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheik Attar's statement that a joint Iranian-Syrian committee has been established to investigate the murder of Imad Moughniyah. The communique's terse language - reminiscent of SANA's December statement denying President Assad discussed with Rep. Patrick Kennedy the release of Damascus Declaration activists from jail - signals that Syria isn't letting even its closest allies near the criminal investigation.
Meanwhile, Walid Mouallem says the assassination "destroyed all hopes to revive the peace process."
A news roundup follows...
Syrian Arab news agency - SANA - Syria
An Official Information Source Denies Reports on the Formation of a Joint Committee to Investigate Moghnia Assassination
Local News /
Feb 16, 2008 - 11:15 AM
A Syrian official information source has denied some media reports on the formation of a joint Syrian-Iranian-Hizbullah committee in the investigation into the assassination crime of Haj. Imad Moughnia , stressing that such reports are baseless.
In a statement given to SANA last night , the source indicated that only the Syrian specialized authorities are conducting the investigation into the assassination crime of Haj. Moughnia .
Syria Denies Joint Iran Investigation
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria denied Iranian claims that the two countries would conduct a joint investigation into the assassination of a top Hezbollah commander, the Syrian state news agency reported.
Imad Mughniyeh, who was one of the world's most wanted fugitives, was killed in a car bomb in the Syrian capital Tuesday night. He was accused of masterminding attacks that killed hundreds of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheik Attar announced the joint probe on Friday, according to Iran's official news agency.
But a Syrian official dismissed the report as "totally baseless" and said Damascus would conduct the investigation alone, Syria's state-run news agency reported late Friday. It did not name the official.
Hezbollah and its Iranian backers have accused Israel of killing Mughniyeh. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed in a eulogy to the slain militant on Thursday that his Shiite guerrilla group would retaliate against Israeli interests anywhere in the world.
Israel has denied any role in the killing, and Syria has not said who it believes was behind the blast.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with senior Syrian officials in Damascus on Thursday and Friday to discuss Mughniyeh's assassination. Attar said Friday that Iran and Syria agreed to the joint investigation during Mottaki's visit.
Mughniyeh was one of the most elusive and notorious Hezbollah commanders, believed to have masterminded suicide bombings in Lebanon during the 1974-1990 civil war that killed hundreds of Americans and French. He was also blamed for taking Westerners hostage and the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed.
In the 1990s, he went into hiding, and Western and Israeli intelligence accuse him of planning suicide bombings against the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed over 100 people. Over the past 15 years, he is believed to have moved in secret between Lebanon, Iran and Syria.
International Herald Tribune
Iran joins Syria in hunt for killers of militant
The Associated Press
Friday, February 15, 2008
DAMASCUS: Syria and Iran have agreed to conduct a joint investigation into the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, a commander of their ally Hezbollah, who was killed by a car bomb this week in the Syrian capital, Iran's state news agency reported Friday.
An Iranian television station aired what it said was mobile phone video footage of the blast in Damascus.
The grainy, dark images appeared to have been taken moments after the explosion Tuesday night. They show a vehicle engulfed in flames on a street at night, and several people running, apparently bystanders. It cannot be seen whether anyone is in the vehicle in the images, taken from a distance and lasting a few seconds.
The video was shown on Iran's state-run Arabic channel, Al Alam. The station did not say how it obtained the footage.
The Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, met in Damascus on Friday with the Syrian vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, to discuss the assassination. Iran and Hezbollah have accused Israel of killing Mugniyah, and Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, vowed in a eulogy Thursday that his Shiite guerrilla group would retaliate against Israeli interests anywhere in the world.
"We discussed the terrorist crime that led to the martyrdom of one of the most senior commanders in the Lebanese Islamic Resistance, martyr Imad Mugniyah," Mottaki told reporters after his meeting with Sharaa.
Israel has denied any role in the killing, and Syria has not said who it believes was behind the blast. On Thursday, the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said he expected the perpetrators to be identified soon.
In Tehran, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Reza Sheik Attar said that during Mottaki's visit to Damascus, which began Thursday, Iran and Syria had agreed to form a joint investigation team to "look into the root causes and dimensions of the assassination to identify the perpetrators of this dirty crime," the state IRNA news agency reported.
Mugniyah, one of the most elusive and notorious Hezbollah commanders, was believed to have masterminded suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people, including American and French military personnel, during Lebanon's 1974-1990 civil war, as well as hostage-takings of Westerners and the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed.
In the 1990s he went into hiding, and Western and Israeli intelligence agencies accused him of having planned suicide bombings against the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed more than 100 people. Over the past 15 years, he is believed to have moved in secret between Lebanon, Iran and Syria.
Mottaki attended Mugniyah's funeral Thursday in Beirut and met later in the day with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to discuss the assassination. On Friday, he held talks with the Damascus-based leaders of the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's exiled leader, said Thursday that Mugniyah's death would not deter the militant Palestinian group from continuing its resistance against Israel.
"We accept the challenge and we are not afraid at all," Mashaal said at a wake for Mugniyah at a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus.
In Iran, a former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, condemned the United States and Israel for welcoming Mugniyah's assassination, saying the car bomb that killed him was an act of terrorism.
International Herald Tribune Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
Syrian FM says assassination destroyed all hopes of peace
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 15, 2008
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday said that Syria will "prove beyond any doubt" who is responsible for the assassination of Hizbullah arch-terrorist and operations officer Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus.
Muallem said that Syria is conducting an investigation and that "we hope to near the results soon."
He also said that the assassination has destroyed "all hopes to revive the peace process" between Israel and Syria. "Whoever seeks peace does not act in terror. Whoever seeks peace does not place a siege on the Gaza Strip while almost a million and a half Palestinians are struggling for their lives."