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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

13 December 2005

Keep the Pressure on Syria, U.S. Ambassador Bolton Says

Envoy to U.N. says Damascus must cooperate fully with Hariri inquiry

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Unhappy with Syria's poor cooperation with the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said December 13 that he is working with Security Council members to find a way to keep the pressure on Damascus to cooperate fully with the U.N.-mandated inquiry.

"On the part of the U.S., there's no wavering from the proposition that Syria is not going to get away with obstructing this investigation," Bolton told journalists outside the Security Council chambers.  "It's not going to cover up the actions of its senior officials, and it's not going to escape the consequences."

The Security Council's "word is at stake now," the ambassador said.  "The council has given Syria a requirement of full and immediate cooperation.  That requirement has not been met and for the council's credibility to be preserved, it has to ensure that the pressure and requirement of Syrian compliance continue."

The Security Council met in both open and closed sessions December 13 with Detlev Mehlis, head of the International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC).  Mehlis said that in the seven weeks since the council passed a resolution demanding Syrian cooperation he has been "trying hard to make headway" with Syrian officials.

Working with Syria has been marked by "conflicting signals," and uncertainty over who was the appointed contact person caused "confusion and delays," Mehlis said.  Syria finally allowed the commission to interview five Syrian witnesses just one week before the commission's mandate was set to expire.

"At this rate the investigation may take a year or two to complete," Mehlis said.   (See related article.)

The commission's mandate is set to expire December 15, but Lebanon has requested the council extend it for another six months and to expand the investigation to help solve the string of assassinations and terrorist attacks on politicians and journalists from October 2004 up to the December 12 murder of Gibran Tueni.  Security Council members have indicated that they will grant the Lebanese request.  (See related article.)

SYRIAN COOPERATION "GRUDGING AT BEST"

Bolton said that Syria has failed to meet its obligations for full and complete cooperation with the commission.  (See related article.) 

"Syrian cooperation has been grudging at best," the U.S. ambassador said.  "They tried the lowest common denominator approach to see what they can get away with."

"This is obstruction of justice on their part and we are looking for ways of making sure the international pressure on Syria is unrelenting, that their obligations to cooperate with the commission are not mistaken, and that they don't think they can try a 5 percent solution and find we're satisfied with it, because we are most emphatically not satisfied with it," he said.

Meetings would be held in Washington overnight to review the Mehlis report and decide on a course of action, Bolton said.

U.S. experience has been that Syria "responds only to pressure," he continued.  "So we are considering what additional pressure we will bring to bear."

The ambassador added that "the Syrians hold the key to this themselves."

"If they complied with [Security Council resolutions] 1636, 1595, 1559 -- it's a long list these days, getting longer -- they could put themselves back in the good graces of the international community," Bolton said.

Mehlis also told the Security Council that over the past six months, the close links developed with Lebanese authorities helped the investigation "keep a steady pace" and led to the arrest of four security officials.  UNIIIC interviewed more than 500 witnesses and has a list of 19 suspects, he said.

Syria's change of policy to allow UNIIIC to interview five suspects "might be the starting point of much sought after cooperation," Mehlis said.  "But it remains to be seen if the cooperation is full and without any conditions."

(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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