Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Syria has demanded new U.N. and Lebanese inquiries into the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister after a witness recanted his testimony implicating Syrian officials. Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad made the demand on Wednesday after Husam Taher Husam, a Syrian barber and self-proclaimed intelligence operative, came forward with claims that he had been offered money by the family of slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri and by Lebanese officials to frame Syria.

Husam’s accusations, made on Sunday, were immediately rejected by the Lebanese government and Hariri’s family. And the head of the U.N. commission into the killing, Detlev Mehlis, said in remarks published Thursday that Syria was trying to obstruct the U.N. investigation. But Mekdad said Husam’s claim that he lied to investigators about Syria’s involvement was “a new, important development” that requires re-evaluation of the initial findings of the U.N. inquiry into the Feb. 14 bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others in Beirut.

Syria controlled Lebanon at the time of Hariri’s assassination. The investigating commission, led by Mehlis, a German prosecutor, said in its interim report to the U.N. last month that Syria must have known about the plot to kill him and may have been involved.

In a rare briefing to Lebanese newspapers, Mehlis said this week’s TV appearances by the witness, Husam Taher Husam, was a Soviet-style campaign against the U.N. commission, but it would not affect the investigation.

“I am used to this kind of propaganda,” the German prosecutor was quoted by As-Safir newspaper as saying. “We are used to these examples in former Eastern European states.”

Mekdad also urged Lebanon to conduct its own investigation of people Husam claims tortured him and tried to bribe him and to bring them to justice.

“Such things should not take place and we want the commission and the Lebanese authorities to follow closely these developments and to bring to justice all those who wanted to fabricate witnesses and to mislead the commission,” he said in an interview at U.N. headquarters in New York.

While Syria is fighting back against the U.N. inquiry, which has further eroded the country’s international standing, some Lebanese counter that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is just trying to discredit an investigation that could lead to its doorstep.

Syria’s Lebanese opponents suspect Damascus planted Husam to undermine the Mehlis commission.

Walid Jumblatt, a leader of the campaign to drive Syria from Lebanon, called Husam’s TV appearances a “laughable farce” carried out by Syrian intelligence and aimed at undermining Mehlis’ credibility before he questions five senior Syrian officials implicated in the probe.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari said the questioning is due to start in Vienna Dec. 5.

Chibli Mallat, a professor of international law who is campaigning to be Lebanon’s next president, called Husam’s appearance a “childish spoof” and said he did not think the investigators took his initial testimony seriously.

Mekdad denied any Syrian pressure on Husam, saying he came forward on his own, “without the knowledge of the Syrian authorities.”

Mekdad said it was regrettable that many parts of Mehlis’ reports were based on false testimony from Husam and from another Syrian, Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq.

Siddiq gave evidence to U.N. investigators but was later discredited. At the commission’s recommendation, he was arrested in France in October as a suspect in the murder.

Mekdad said this was evidence that some people are trying “mislead and misinform the investigation” and demanded that Lebanese authorities investigate them.

He blamed “certain Lebanese authorities and people who hate Syria and who hate the truth of who was behind the assassination of the late prime minister.”

Syria also wants the U.N. commission to use information provided by the Syrian Judicial Commission which is conducting its own investigation of the assassination, Mekdad said.