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UN Demands Syria Cooperate with Lebanon Assassination Probe


The U.N. Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution demanding Syrian cooperation with the U.N. investigation into the February 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The threat of economic sanctions was removed from the resolution in order win the support of Russia.

The new resolution demands that Syria detain any officials or individuals that U.N. investigators suspect of involvement in the Hariri murder and make them available for questioning at locations and under circumstances determined by the investigating commission.

The measure, which was sponsored by Britain, France and the United States, also bans travel for individuals the commission designates as suspects and freezes their overseas assets.

The threat of economic sanctions, included in the original draft, was deleted from the final measure after high level negotiations aimed at winning the approval of Russia. Syria has long been a key Russian ally in the Middle East. The final version of the resolution refers to unspecified "further action" if Damascus does not fully cooperate with investigators.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls it a good resolution, aimed at compelling Syrian cooperation and bringing the perpetrators to justice. She says a unanimously passed resolution sends a strong signal to Syria.

"The resolution tells the Syrians in no uncertain terms, in very strong language, that they should not interfere in Lebanese affairs in any way," said Ms. Rice. "That is a warning to Syria about interfering in Lebanese affairs. Third, it allows the Council to come back to consider further action should that be necessary, should Syria not comply."

The resolution also extends the investigating commission's mandate beyond December 15, if necessary.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al Sharaa objected to the resolution, saying the investigation has been based on the presumption of Syria's guilt in playing a role in the assassination, rather than a presumption of innocence.