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Syria Must Stop Stalling Hariri Probe, Ambassador Bolton Says

22 November 2005

U.N. Security Council demands full and immediate cooperation

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Syria must stop "delaying and obstructing" the work of the international commission investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said November 22.

The Security Council resolution "demands full and immediate Syrian cooperation," Bolton said.  "It does not give the Syrians leave to negotiate or ask for mediators or others to deal with Mehlis."

The investigation by Detlev Mehlis, head of the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission, has implicated both Lebanese and Syrian high-ranking officials in the murder of Hariri and 20 others on February 14. (See related article.)

Syria has asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to help with an agreement with the commission, but Annan said November 21 that he would not get involved in the investigation.

In a report delivered to Annan October 20, the international commission reported that Syria's failure to cooperate had hampered its work.  It said that Syrian authorities cooperated in form but not substance and that several officials tried to mislead the commission with false or inaccurate information.  Mehlis wants to interview Syrian citizens outside the country and without the presence of Syrian officials in any interview.

A ministerial-level meeting of the Security Council subsequently unanimously adopted a tough resolution (U.N. Security Council Resolution 1636) requiring unconditional cooperation from Damascus with the commission's search for the perpetrators of the bombing in Lebanon that claimed the life of Hariri and others. The commission's mandate is due to expire on December 15.

Talking with reporters at U.N. headquarters, Bolton said he is waiting for Mehlis to tell the Security Council whether Syria has agreed to cooperate.  "Syrian efforts to get other people involved in the negotiations do not constitute full and immediate cooperation," he said.

"We support Mehlis' investigation efforts and we're not going to second guess his techniques or his tactics, but we are going to say clearly to the Syrians that they need to stop delaying and obstructing Mehlis' work and December 15 is getting closer every day and the Syrians know it, too," Bolton said.

Syrian officials will "write to this person, write to that person, they'll write to anybody on their Rolodex," the ambassador said.  "What we want is for them to make witnesses available to Mehlis."

Bolton said that Mehlis, along with the commission, "is the vehicle we want ... is the Security Council's instrument."  Syria should cooperate with Mehlis and not look to involve other people as a way to continue its "pattern of obstruction," he said.

"We want the Syrians to comply with their obligations under resolution 1636," the ambassador said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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