Sam F. Ghattas, Associated Press
Published — Friday 29 April 2005
Last Update 29 April 2005 3:00 am
BEIRUT, 29 April 2005 — The government removed the country’s top prosecutor and another security chief yesterday, and replaced two other security chiefs who had stepped aside earlier in a campaign to purge the administration of pro-Syrian officials two days after Syria withdrew its army from Lebanon.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet also appointed a new police commander and a new head of military intelligence. The removal of the country’s pro-Syrian security chiefs and the prosecutor-general had been a key demand of the anti-Syrian opposition.
A UN fact-finding mission that traveled to Beirut in March also suggested that the security chiefs be replaced ahead of an international investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
In an initial report, the fact-finding mission found Lebanon’s own probe seriously flawed and declared Syria, with its troop presence, primarily responsible for the political tension preceding the assassination. The report called for a new international investigation.
Syria completed its troop withdrawal from Lebanon on Tuesday under relentless international pressure, ending 29 years of political and military dominance of its smaller neighbor.
Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting, Information Minister Charles Rizk said Prosecutor-General Adnan Addoum, a justice minister in the previous Cabinet, was placed “at the disposal” of the government, a term that means the official was stepping aside without resigning.
He said Judge Saeed Mirza has been immediately appointed to replace Addoum.
Director of state security agency Edward Mansour also was placed “at the disposal” of the government but a successor was not immediately named. Military intelligence chief Raymond Azar, who left for France with his family last week after taking administrative leave, was replaced by acting chief George Khoury.
Police Commander Ali Hajj, who stepped aside last week, was replaced by Brig. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, Rizk said. The resignation last week of Jamil Sayyed, the powerful pro-Syrian general security chief, was accepted by the Cabinet but a successor has not yet been named.
The government’s decisions came as a five-member advance team handling logistics for the investigation into Hariri’s Feb. 14 assassination began its work in Beirut.
The team, headed by American Mark Quarterman of the UN Department of Political Affairs, discussed matters with Lebanon’s acting Foreign Ministry chief, Butros Asaker, and other ministry officials.