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United Nations Extends Probe into Lebanon Assassination

16 December 2005

New Security Council resolution is intended to keep pressure on Syria

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The Security Council, expressing "extreme concern" that Syria had not yet cooperated fully with investigators, voted unanimously December 15 to extend the inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri another six months.

The council also authorized the International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC), which has been headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, to provide technical assistance to Lebanese authorities investigating the string of assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians in the country, including the recent murder of parliamentarian and publisher Gibran Tueni. (See related article.)

The resolution, co-sponsored by France, the United Kingdom and the United States, demanded that Syria respond "unambiguously and immediately" in the investigation and "implement without delay any future request of the commission." It asked UNIIIC to report every three months or earlier if Syrian cooperation falls short. (See related article.)

RESOLUTION SENDS "STRONG MESSAGE TO SYRIA," BOLTON SAYS

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said that the resolution "sends a strong signal to Syria that we still require full and unconditional compliance with the obligation of the earlier resolution to cooperate with the Mehlis commission. It's clear they have not yet provided that cooperation.

"We are making it clear to the government of Syria they can't run, they can't hide. The end game of this exercise is to get to the bottom of the Hariri assassination and to bring to justice anybody responsible for it," Bolton said.

"It's quite clear that if you read the Mehlis report ... that Syria has not fully and unconditionally complied with its obligations under [Security Council Resolution] 1636," Bolton told journalists before the vote.

In an October 20 report, the international commission reported Syria's failure to cooperate in the investigation and that several officials tried to mislead the commission with false or inaccurate information.

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 was due to expire on December 15. (See related article.)

Bolton also said that it was important to provide help to Lebanon in the investigation of the December 13 assassination of Tueni. "The crime scene is still viable and the trail that the that evidence can lead to is still warm so providing assistance to the Government of Lebanon promptly through the commission or through bilateral assistance as a practical matter is extremely important," the ambassador said. 

The Security Council also asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan to consult with Lebanon to identify the nature and scope of the government's request to establish an international tribunal to try those eventually charged with Hariri's assassination.

In his second report to the Security Council December 13, Mehlis said that he had been trying to make headway with Syrian officials but met with confusion and delays. Damascus' agreement the week of December 5 to allow UNIIIC to interview five Syrian officials "might be the starting point" of cooperation. But, Mehlis said, "it remains to be seen if the cooperation is full and without any conditions."

In press interviews, Mehlis has credited Security Council pressure for Syria's limited cooperation to date.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Response to Terrorism.

(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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