Moments before the full Security Council adopted UN resolution 1636, France, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed to drop a direct threat of economic sanctions against Syria if it fails to cooperate with the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
That opened the way for Russia and China, the two remaining permanent Security Council members, to support the resolution.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the Security Council is putting Syria on notice that patience has limits.
"The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on the 14th of February was profoundly shocking to the people of Lebanon and to the whole of the international community,” said the foreign secretary. “Because it seemed to suggest that there were people, maybe countries, who were ready to resolve political difficulties by resort to the medieval practice of political assassination. And this United Nations would be seriously and significantly undermined if we were to turn a blind eye to such activities. Which is why this unanimous decision today is so important.
The resolution requires Syria to detain anyone the UN investigators consider a suspect and let investigators determine the location and conditions under which the individual would be questioned.
Former Prime Minister Hariri was a critic of Syrian domination of Lebanon. After his murder, an international outcry led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it is up to Syria to increase its cooperation. "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. Now the Syrian government needs to make a strategic decision to fundamentally change its behavior,” said Ms. Rice.
The resolution also freezes the assets of and imposes a travel ban on anyone identified as a suspect by the commission. That could pose a problem for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Assef Shawkat, the chief of military intelligence. Both refused a request from UN investigators to be interviewed.
Responding to the vote, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, insisted that Syria had cooperated fully with the UN investigation.
He denied that high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese security officials were involved in the assassination, insinuating if that were the case then American officials were involved in 9/11, Spanish officials were involved in the Madrid train bombings, and British officials were involved in the London Underground bombings.
His denials and accusations confirmed for Security Council Members the necessity for the resolution.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "It was a tirade that made the most bizarre connection of what happened to Rafik Hariri with, somehow, the U.S. government position on 9/11. At one point, Dr, Sharaa said that there had been a kind of strange presentation; well, this was truly a strange presentation."
The UN Commission has until December 15th to complete its investigation.