US, France pressure Syria, call for expanded investigation into Lebanon killings
Syria-Lebanon-USA, Politics, 12/15/2005
The United States and France are pushing the United Nations Security Council to harden its stance on Syria as an independent probe points to further leads on the possible involvement of Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
"The government of Syria, unfortunately, just responds under pressure," John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council after listening to UN chief investigator Detlef Mehlis, who had just submitted his second report on Hariri's assassination "The lack of cooperation (from Syria) needs reaction," Bolton added.
After Mehlis' last progress report in October, the United States, Britain, and France wanted to impose sanctions on Syria, but failed to do so because of strong opposition from the two other veto-wielding Security Council members, Russian and China.
Both the US and France are now circulating a draft resolution that seeks to expand the UN probe to cover other political killings in the past 14 months in Lebanon. It also calls for extending the investigation for another six months.
On Monday, Melhis presented testimony to the 15-member Council charging Syria with interfering in the probe by burning its intelligence documents and intimidating a witness who had accused Damascus officials of planning to kill Hariri.
In his report, Mehlis accused Syria of "reluctance," "delays," and "conflicting signals," regarding its cooperation with the Independent Investigation Commission.
But Syrians reject this charge. "We have fully cooperated," Syrian ambassador Faissal Mekdad told reporters Tuesday. "We have given the commission whatever they wanted." Syrian officials have repeatedly described the investigation as politically motivated and have urged the investigators to focus on the facts related to the actual crime.
Mehlis' mandate expires on Thursday and so far it's not clear who will replace him if the Security Council adopts a new resolution to expand its inquiry.
"I will move as quickly as I can," said Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, after receiving Mehlis' report. "I hope that I can name somebody in the next week or two. It is important to have continuity in the work of the Commission." The Commission was formed by Annan after the February car bombing in Beirut that resulted in the death of Hariri and 22 others. The attack also led to calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence agents who had been in Lebanon since the early stages of that country's civil war, which took place from 1975 until 1980.
After discussing the possibility of extending and widening the probe with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Annan cautioned the Council against hasty and extreme decisions.
"It is an issue that we should allow the Council to deliberate, to discuss carefully," he said.
In response, the Syrian ambassador accused Bolton of having been "always wrong." "He was saying that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. He was wrong...He's always wrong." The Security Council is expected to vote on the new resolution today Thursday.
Thousands of Syrians demonstrate against US pressures
US calls for accelerating Hariri file, Damascus asks Annan's help
Washington, Paris for strong resolution against Syria
France seeks a Security Council resolution for Syrian cooperation
al-Safir: France arrests Zouhair Siddiq
Please add a link on your webiste pointing to ArabicNews.com and bookmark ArabicNews.com & subscribe to our daily email news bulletin.
| Advertise on ArabicNews.com. MyFlowers.com sold more than $2700 of flowers in one month advertising on ArabicNews.com! Make your company, and products a success. Special rate for new and small business. Inquire!Advertising Info