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UN Officials Say Syria Not Cooperating with Hariri Assassination Probe

The U.N. Security Council has welcomed the arrest of suspects in the assassination for former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A senior U.N. official says Syria is still not cooperating with the investigation.

The Security Council met in closed session Tuesday for a briefing on the arrests from U.N. political affairs director Ibrahim Gambari. The Council president, Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, said German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who heads the U.N. authorized Hariri assassination probe, would give more details at a news conference Thursday in Beirut.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson came out of the briefing calling the arrests of pro-Syrian figures "a dramatic development" and a credit to Mr. Mehlis and his team. But she said Mr. Gambari had told the Council Syria is still withholding cooperation from investigators.

"There has been no cooperation," explained Ambassador Patterson, "and Dr. Gambari said in his briefing and expressed concern that there had been no cooperation from Syria, that Mr. Mehlis had met with a Syrian official in Geneva a couple days ago but there was not adequate cooperation. There was a series of written questions passed back and forth, and that was inadequate."

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean Mc Cormack Tuesday welcomed the latest developments in the probe, saying the Lebanese people deserve to know what happened. He reiterated Washington's demand that Syria fully comply with U.N. resolutions

But Syria's U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad told reporters Damascus is prepared to cooperate with U.N. investigators.

"We will continue cooperation, and full cooperation was pledged by the highest leadership in Syria," Mr. Mekdad said.

The special U.N. envoy on Syria/Lebanon issues, Terje Roed-Larsen met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington Tuesday, presumably on the Hariri assassination issue. But news agencies say neither side would comment on the visit.

Mr. Hariri's death in a bomb explosion last February shook Lebanese politics, leading to mass protests that brought down the pro-Syrian government. Syria denied involvement, but later gave in to international pressure and withdrew its 14,000 troops that had been stationed in Lebanon for nearly three decades.