France proposes to extend Hariri murder probe

14th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 (AFP) - France on Tuesday submitted a draft resolution in the Security Council extending for six months the UN probe of the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri and broadening it to cover other assassinations in Lebanon.

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 (AFP) - France on Tuesday submitted a draft resolution in the Security Council extending for six months the UN probe of the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri and broadening it to cover other assassinations in Lebanon.

The move came shortly after UN chief investigator Detlev Mehlis said the UN investigation of Hariri's slaying might take "another year or two" because of the slow pace of Syrian cooperation.

The French resolution was significant because the mandate for the Mehlis commission of enquiry into the Hariri assassination expires on Thursday.

The resolution followed the latest attack against a Damascus critic in Lebanon, Monday's car bombing in Beirut which killed prominent anti-Syrian lawmaker Gibran Tueni.

The Tueni killing prompted Lebanon to call for an international tribunal for the Hariri murder and an international probe into a dozen bombings that targeted anti-Syrian critics over the past year.

The French draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, says the 15-member council decides to extend the mandate of the UN commission until June 15, 2006, and to extend it further if recommended by the commission and requested by the Lebanese government.

It also expands the mandate to "include investigations on the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since October 1, 2004 ... and calls on all member states and parties to cooperate fully with the Lebanese authorities and the commission in this regard."

It directs the commission to report to the council on the progress of the enquiry every two months, "including on the cooperation received from the Syrian authorities".

It also expresses deep concern at findings by the Mehlis commission that Syria failed to provide "full and unconditional cooperation" with the Hariri probe as demanded by UN resolution 1636 adopted last October 31.

Mehlis on Tuesday briefed the Security Council on his latest report, which cited fresh evidence suggesting that Syrian officers were implicated in the Hariri murder.

Asked about Syrian support for the probe, he told reporters: "We are not seeing full cooperation. Hopefully it will turn into full cooperation."

He noted that, "after much hesitation and procrastination", Syrian authorities finally agreed to let his team interview five Syrian suspects in Vienna last week.

"This latest development is undoubtedly an important stage in the investigation," he noted.

However, he added, because of sluggish Syrian cooperation "the investigation might take another year or two." Under normal circumstances "it should be much faster," he stressed.

"It was not clear at all times who from the Syrian side is the privileged interlocutor of the commission. This has caused confusion and delays," Mehlis said.

Mehlis, who told the Security Council he would be stepping down from his post as soon as a successor is found, expressed hope that the Vienna interviews could be the "starting point" of greater Syrian government cooperation.

Syria's UN envoy Fayssal Mekdad insisted that his country "has cooperated fully during the last period and reiterates its readiness to cooperate with the investigation during the upcoming period."

That view was not shared by US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who said "Syrian cooperation has been grudging at best".

"We are looking for ways to make sure that the international pressure on Syria is unrelenting," Bolton said.

"For the council's credibility to be preserved it has to ensure that the pressure and compliance continue," he said.

"On the part of United States there is absolutely no wavering from the proposition that Syria is not going to get away with obstructing this investigation, it's not going to cover up the actions of its senior officials and it's not going to escape the consequences."

To which Mekdad retorted: "Ambassador Bolton has always been wrong. He was saying that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and he was wrong... He is always wrong and this is my answer to his allegations."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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