U.N. Security Council OKs Syria Resolution
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer 1 hour,
42 minutes ago
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council unanimously
adopted a resolution Monday demanding Syria's full
cooperation with a U.N. investigation into the
assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister and
warning of possible "further action" if it doesn't.
The United States, France and Britain pressed for the
resolution following last week's tough report by the
U.N. investigating commission, which implicated top
Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the Feb. 14
bombing that killed Rafik Hariri and 20 others. The
report also accused Syria of not cooperating fully
with the inquiry.
The three co-sponsors agreed to drop a direct threat
of sanctions against Syria in order to get support
from Russia and China, which opposed sanctions while
the investigation is still under way. Nonetheless, the
resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the U.N.
Charter, which is militarily enforceable.
The resolution requires Syria to detain anyone the
U.N. investigators consider a suspect and let
investigators determine the location and conditions
under which the individual would be questioned. It
also would freeze assets and impose a travel ban on
anyone identified as a suspect by the commission.
Those provisions could pose a problem for Syrian
President Bashar Assad, as well as his brother, Maher
Assad, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, the
chief of military intelligence. The Syrian leader has
refused a request from the chief U.N. investigator to
be interviewed. Investigators also want to question
his brother and brother-in-law.
The U.S. invited foreign ministers of the 15 Security
Council nations to attend the meeting to send a strong
message to Syria to cooperate with the inquiry, and a
dozen ministers showed up, including Secretary of
Condoleezza Rice and ministers from Russia, China,
Britain and France.
Rice told the council that Syria had been put on
notice by the international community that it must
cooperate with the inquiry by German prosecutor Detlev
"With our decision today, we show that Syria has
isolated itself from the international community
through its false statements, its support for
terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its
neighbors, and its destabilizing behavior in the
Middle East," Rice said. "Now, the Syrian government
must make a strategic decision to fundamentally change
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the Security
Council is "putting the government of Syria on notice
that our patience has limits."
"The people of the Lebanon have become all too
acquainted with grief," he said. "We owe them a better
future, and this resolution is one way of providing
them with that better future."
France's Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy
stressed that the aim of the resolution was "the whole
truth about Rafik Hariri's assassination in order that
those responsible for it answer for their crime."
By adopting the resolution, he said, the council
showed solidarity with Lebanon and support for the
Mehlis commission's work, which has been extended
until Dec. 15, and demanded "firm and urgent
cooperation" from Syria.
After listening to the council members, Syrian Foreign
Minister Farouk al-Sharaa lashed out at Mehlis and the
Security Council for accusing Syria of "committing a
crime" without producing the evidence and adhering to
the presumption of innocence.
"It seems that there was a set intention to point a
finger at Syria ... pointing the way to this
resolution," said al-Sharaa, who was personally
accused in the Mehlis report of lying to
Al-Sharaa said accusing Syrian security forces of
advance knowledge of Hariri's assassination was
tantamount to suggesting U.S. officials had prior
knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or
that Britain knew about the July transit bombings.
A visibly angry Straw called al-Sharaa's comments "the
most grotesque and insensitive comparison." Rice told
reporters afterward it was an "unbelievable tirade"
that showed the Syrians were intent on trying to
discredit the investigation.
At the end of his speech, al-Sharaa insisted Damascus
wants the truth and said "Syria's decision was and is
to fully cooperate with the international commission
until conclusive evidence is found of the perpetrators
of this heinous crime."
"I look forward to the full cooperation of Syria in
form as well as substance," Straw retorted, "but I
have to say after what I've heard I'm not holding my
Assad on Saturday ordered that a judicial committee be
formed to investigate Hariri's assassination. A
presidential decree said the committee will cooperate
with the U.N. probe and Lebanese judicial authorities.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, whose country
has large Lebanese and Syrian communities, made clear
that any further action against Syria would require
Security Council approval.
"Brazil will not favor hasty decisions that may lead
to an undesirable escalation of the situation or
further endanger the stability of the region," he
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the
resolution was useful because it showed the council's
determination to discover the truth behind Hariri's
assassination. "The final text of the resolution, of
course, is not ideal," he said.
Russia said last week it opposed sanctions against
Syria, its longtime ally. Late Sunday, Lavrov
criticized what he described as attempts to turn the
Security Council into an investigative body, in
comments broadcast by Russia's Channel One television.
Although the final text dropped the threat of
sanctions, it said if Syria doesn't cooperate "the
council, if necessary, could consider further action."
That could ultimately include sanctions.
In another concession to try to get Russia and China
on board, the co-sponsors also agreed to drop an
appeal to Syria to renounce all support "for all forms
of terrorist action and all assistance to terrorist
Syria, meanwhile, is pushing for an emergency Arab
League summit to try to rally regional support, said
Arab diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity
because the request had not been officially made.
The diplomats, speaking at the Arab League
headquarters in Cairo, suggested a smaller gathering
of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt
might be organized should other countries decline to
participate out of concern over harming ties with the
U.S., France and Britain.
The diplomats said Arab League Secretary-General Amr
Moussa sent an envoy to Gulf countries informing them
of the Syrian request. They said Syria hoped for the
meeting later this week, after the end of the Muslim
religious month of Ramadan.
The Syrian media criticized the U.N. resolution before
the vote Monday, with the English-language Syria Times
saying it was "openly politicized" and too heavily
influenced by the U.S.
"It's immoral and totally unacceptable that the will
of the (international) community remains captive to a
unilateral diktat and ... accepts tyranny and
hegemony," the paper said.
Syria's official news agency, SANA, said Syrian Deputy
Foreign Minister Walid Moallem toured Gulf countries
this past weekend bearing a message from the Syrian
president concerning "the dangers Syria faces" as a
result of the U.N. action.
SANA quoted Moallem as saying the resolution was
"dangerous" and aimed at hurting Syria, not uncovering
the truth in the Hariri assassination. But Moallem
said Syria will "continue to cooperate" with the U.N.
While Syria has rejected accusations of its
involvement in Hariri's killing, it buckled under
international pressure and withdrew its soldiers from
Lebanon in April, ending a 29-year presence in its
Associated Press writers Donna Abu-Nasr and Samar
Kassabli contributed to this report from Damascus, Syria.