France, US and UK revise draft Syria resolution

28th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 28 (AFP) - The United States, France and Great Britain circulated late Thursday a revised UN draft resolution demanding Syrian cooperation in investigating the murder of Lebanon's former prime minister.

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 28 (AFP) - The United States, France and Great Britain circulated late Thursday a revised UN draft resolution demanding Syrian cooperation in investigating the murder of Lebanon's former prime minister.

The new version, of which AFP obtained a copy, still threatens Damascus with economic and diplomatic sanctions if it does not fully cooperate with the probe, but tones down some of the language and certain punitive measures, the application of which would now be overseen by a special committee.

Experts from the 15-member UN Security Council met Thursday to reconcile strong differences about a Franco-US draft resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and presented on Wednesday, that calls for sanctions against Syrians implicated in the slaying of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri last February.

A report by the United Nations chief investigator, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, released last week concluded that senior Syrian security officials organized the killing with the help of their allies in Lebanese security.

The council delegates were racing against time to secure a text with broad support that could be presented at a ministerial session tentatively scheduled here for Monday.

Most council members said their foreign ministers planned to attend Monday's meeting, which was called by the United States.

Initial disagreement focused on a paragraph in the original text that contained an implicit threat of economic or diplomatic sanctions under article 41 of the UN Charter.

According to the earlier draft, the Security Council "expresses its intention to consider further measures pursuant to article 41 of the (UN) Charter, if needed to ensure compliance by Syria."

Article 41 says the council may decide what measures other than the use of force may be used to assure compliance with its decision, that is, economic and political sanctions.

Algeria's UN envoy Abdallah Baali told reporters that in the first round of council consultations Wednesday at least six countries -- including Algeria and veto-holders China and Russia -- voiced strong opposition to sanctions.

In particular, Baali said, any suggestion that the Hariri case implies a threat to international peace and security and therefore would warrant sanctions should be removed from the draft.

"Measures not linked to the strict framework of the Hariri investigation also constitute a problem," he added.

In a bid to reach consensus, the draft resolution was modified to empanel a committee of the Security Council, with representatives from each of the 15 members, to oversee and supervise the application of sanctions on individuals whom the Mehlis probe considers suspects in Hariri's murder.

The sanctions themselves have also been toned down, especially those dealing with travel restrictions and the freezing of funds and assets that UN members are called to comply with.

Travel restrictions would not apply "on grounds of humanitarian need, including religious obligation" or where the monitoring committee deems an exemption is justified, according to the new draft.

Funds and other assets would be exempted from freezing when they are deemed "necessary for basic expenses, including payments for foodstuffs, rent or mortgage, medicines and medical treatment, taxes, insurance premiums, and public utility charges" or for payment of some legal fees.

Language in the draft resolution saying there was "probable cause to believe" Harari's murder could not have occurred "without the approval of Syrian Security officials" in "collusion" with Lebanese security officials was also scrapped.

In its place, the new draft states that "given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services ... it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot would have been carried out without their knowledge..."

The text also adds that "there is probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate ... Hariri could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials."

It was unclear what reception the new draft was getting among security council members.

Approval of a resolution requires support of at least nine members on the 15-member council and no opposition from any of the five permanent veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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