Hariri wanted moderates to replace Assad: Wikileaks


Lebanon’s erstwhile caretaker Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, wanted a coalition of progressives to replace President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, in a bid to isolate his neighboring state, according to cables released by Wikileaks and published in the Arabic newspaper Al Ahram on Friday.

The cable was filed in the US embassy in Beirut in 2006 after a meeting between Mr. Hariri and US officials, shortly after the end of the Lebanon-Israel war. In the course of the meeting, Mr. Hariri talked about how it was important for the international community to isolate the 45-year-old Mr. Assad using sanctions. He warned that failure to isolate Syria would destabilize Lebanon and strengthen Iran’s grip on the region.

Mr. Hariri, 40, also recommended a coalition of secular forces to replace Mr. Assad’s regime. He suggested the Muslim Brotherhood should join hands with former vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam and former army chief of staff Hikmat Shehabi, according the cable.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Syria, Mr. Hariri in the cable compared the group to moderate Muslims in Turkey and said they were likely to support peace with Israel.

Syria and Lebanon have long had a contentious relationship, with ties deteriorating after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Many Lebanese allege Syria’s involvement in the murder, which the latter has always denied. Following the assassination, Syria withdrew its forces from Lebanon after a presence of nearly three decades.

The release of the cables has come at a time when Damascus is accusing Jamal al-Jarrah, a member of Mr. Hariri’s party, of funding the current protests in Syria, an allegation that Mr. Jarrah denies.

Al Arabiya