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U.N. Security Council OKs Syria Resolution

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051031/ap_on_re_mi_ea/un_syria_lebanon U.N. Security Council OKs Syria Resolution By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer 1
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2005
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051031/ap_on_re_mi_ea/un_syria_lebanon

      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
      State
      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
      Mehlis.

      "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
      its behavior."

      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
      investigators.

      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
      breath."

      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
      said.

      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
      groups."

      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.
      investigation despite.

      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
      smaller neighbor.

      ___

      Associated Press writers Donna Abu-Nasr and Samar
      Kassabli contributed to this report from Damascus, Syria.
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