UN calls on Syria to cooperate on Hariri investigators
Syria-Lebanon, Politics, 8/26/2005
Lebanon's President, Emil Lahoud, accused certain Lebanese sides of aiming to use the report of the UN international investigation committee into the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri against what he called internal politics. Lahoud called on the Lebanese not to pre-judge results of the investigation.
For its part, the UN Security Council called on Syria, without mentioning it by name, to cooperate fully with the international cooperation on the assassination of Hariri.
In a statement issued on late Thursday evening, the UN Security Council renewed the call for "all countries and sides, especially those who did not respond appropriately so far, to cooperate fully in order to accelerate the work and the mission of the investigation committee," into the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri.
This call came amid expectations made by certain sources that the chairman of the UN investigation committee will extend his mission for some time before submitting his final report to the UN Security Council. The report aims to give information on what the team made of investigations on the nature of the explosion that killed Hariri. Even though the report is considered intermediate, however, Lebanon is awaiting the report anxiously because of the important phases the investigation has reached.
In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, of Japan, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency for August, Council members expressed satisfaction that the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) had "significantly advanced" the course of its probe.
The statement added that greater cooperation would help expedite the work of the Commission, which was set up to find out who was behind the bomb attack in Beirut which killed Hariri and 20 others, and ultimately led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Earlier, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari briefed the Council on the Commission's work. He later told reporters that more than 200 witnesses had been interviewed so far.
The Commission, headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis and established by the Council on 7 April, became operational on 16 June. An initial UN fact-finding mission found Lebanon's own probe seriously flawed and declared Syria, with its troop presence, primarily responsible for the political tension preceding the assassination.
US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, speaking with journalists after the meeting, singled Syria out for its lack of cooperation with the investigation. "There is no doubt from the briefing we received today that Syria's lack of cooperation with the Mehlis investigation has considerably slowed down the Mehlis commission's work," Bolton said. "This lack of cooperation is unacceptable," the ambassador said.
The commission initially contacted all the parties on June 11 asking for cooperation. After receiving no response from Syria, the commission then sent another request to Damascus on July 19, Bolton said. "Now, finally, on the 26th of August in Europe there will be a meeting to discuss what the cooperation might be," he said.
"As Mr. Mehlis himself said he doesn't want discussions, he wants cooperation," the ambassador said. "This is an investigation of a brutal assassination and the fact is that the evidence and the evidentiary trail grows cold with delay. Anybody knows that the lack of cooperation that potential material witnesses and parties bring can impede an investigation very severely.
The UN media officer in Beirut, Najib Freiji, said that the procedural report is an interim one, in which the head investigator will show steps he achieved in the process of reaching the final result, "which we hope would disclose the facts."
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