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Diplomats: US, France to Target Syria in UN Resolutions


A U.N.-appointed prosecutor probing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is due to present his findings to Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday. The United States and France are preparing Security Council resolutions that would criticize Syria for interference in Lebanese affairs.

U.S. and French diplomats were consulting other Security Council ambassadors Wednesday about possible action against Syria as German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis put the finishing touches on the Hariri assassination report.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton declined to discuss the diplomatic contacts or the content of the draft resolutions. Speaking to reporters, he would only say that talks are focusing on what he called "eventualities and contingencies" that could emerge, depending on the conclusions of the Mehlis report.

British Ambassador Emir Jones-Parry said a number of possibilities are being considered.

"I think you'll find that a comprehensive response to a possible report is under discussion. How that breaks down depends crucially on what Mehlis reports, and also what we see by way of behavior, and we'll have to take account of both those factors when we come to draft a resolution or more resolutions. We'll see," Mr. Jones-Parry said.

U.N. spokesman Stefan Dujarric confirmed that the German prosecutor would present his findings to Secretary-General Annan sometime Thursday. The report is expected to be made public by Friday, when copies are given to Security Council members.

Depending on the findings, the United States and France could push for action against Syria as early as next week. Damascus has denied any involvement in Mr. Hariri's death, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted in a German newspaper Wednesday as saying "we are 100 percent innocent".

But Mr. Mehlis earlier named four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals as suspects, and questioned seven Syrian officials in his probe. One of them, Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan, committed suicide last week.

Secretary-General Annan avoided most questions on the investigation during a news conference Wednesday on the South Asian earthquake. When asked about the fragility of Syria's government, he admitted that the prospects are troubling.

"I don't know how to answer that question. Syria has an established government," Mr. Annan said. "I know that there are lots of developments in the region. I know a lot has been read into the report of Mehlis report, which I'm going to receive this week. I haven't seen the report myself, and I have refused to speculate without seeing report. Syria, like other governments have difficulties, but I do not want to at this stage give you an assessment as to how fragile it is.'

Mr. Annan repeated comments made earlier this week that he hopes to avoid politicizing the findings of the investigators. But he noted that the report is only the beginning of the process of bringing Mr. Hariri's killers to justice.

"I don't think it should be my business as secretary-general to be engaged or to encourage politicization," Mr. Annan said. "And of course, Mehlis's report is the beginning, not the end, because the magistrates and others will have to follow through on that report and decide who to charge and who to bring to the dock."

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said in a French newspaper interview Wednesday that suspects in the Hariri assassination case might better be tried in an international tribunal instead of a national court. He has also sent a letter to Secretary General Annan asking for an extension of Mr. Mehlis's mandate to give him time to follow up on his investigation.

Security Council diplomats say one draft resolution being promoted by the United States and France would call for extending and possibly expanding the Mehlis mandate to cover other terrorist acts in Lebanon. Another would address allegations that Syria has been funneling weapons to militants in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

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