As I mentioned earlier Times Online reported United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday. The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council. The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes. The mistaken release of the unedited report added further support to the published conclusion that Syria was behind Mr Hariri’s assassination in a bomb blast on Valentine’s Day in Beirut. The murder of Mr Hariri touched off an international outcry and hastened Syria’s departure from Lebanon in April after a 29-year pervasive military presence.
Jame Taranto of Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today wrote Bashar al-Assad may become the first dictator to fall from power because U.N. functionaries are incompetent with computers. The original Microsoft Word document is here, and MidEastWeb.org has rendered it in HTML form. Here's the key passage, rendered to look like redlined Microsoft Word text (note that this will not appear properly if you're reading this column as a text e-mail):
One witness of Syrian origin but resident in Lebanon, who claims to have worked for the Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon, has stated that approximately two weeks after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559, According to the Times, "Mr Annan had pledged repeatedly through his chief spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, that he would not change a word of the report by Detlev Mehlis, a German prosecutor":
Maher Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamil Al-Sayyed senior Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri. He claimed that Sayyed a senior Lebanese security official went several times to Syria to plan the crime, meeting once at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus and several times at the Presidential Place and the office of Shawkat a senior Syrian security official. The last meeting was held in the house of Shawkat the same senior Syrian security official approximately seven to 10 days before the assassination and included Mustapha Hamdan another senior Lebanese security official. The witness had close contact with high ranked Syrian officers posted in Lebanon.
But computer tracking showed that the final edit began at about 11.38am on Thursday--a minute after Herr Mehlis began a meeting with Mr Annan to present his report. The names of Maher al-Assad, General Shawkat and the others were apparently removed at 11.55am, after the meeting ended.Last week we noted an Associated Press report that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said that "he is determined to keep an upcoming report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from fanning tensions between Syria and Lebanon." Thanks to Bill Gates, now we know how far Annan was willing to go to protect the Syrian dictatorship.
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