US and France circulate draft resolution on Syria

26th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 (AFP) - UN Security Council members Wednesday discussed a strongly worded US-French draft resolution threatening sanctions if Syria does not fully cooperate with a UN probe into the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 (AFP) - UN Security Council members Wednesday discussed a strongly worded US-French draft resolution threatening sanctions if Syria does not fully cooperate with a UN probe into the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

Co-sponsored by Britain and circulated late Tuesday, the draft demands the arrest of any Syrian national suspected of involvement in the assassination and greater leeway for UN investigators.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, was worked out by the US and French UN envoys -- John Bolton and Jean-Marc de la Sabliere -- after the Security Council heard a briefing by UN chief investigator Detlev Mehlis on his damning report implicating senior Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the February 14 slaying.

Damascus has denied any role in the car bombing that killed Hariri and 20 other people.

The draft resolution called on Syria to detain "Syrian officials or individuals" whom the UN probe considered suspects in the car bombing "and make them fully and unconditionally available to the commission."

It demanded that the Mehlis commission be allowed "to interview Syrian officials or other individuals that the commission deems relevant to the inquiry outside Syria and/or outside the presence of any other Syrian official if the commission so requests."

The text stipulated that to ensure the Mehlis panel's effectiveness it must have full cooperation from Syrian authorities, including full access to all information and evidence in their possession as well as freedom of movement throughout Syrian territory.

The commission must also have "the authority to collect any additional information and evidence ... pertaining to this terrorist act, as well as to interview all officials and other persons" in Syria, it said.

The draft called for sanctions against individuals designated, or who might be designated in the future, by the panel as suspects in the murder. The sanctions include a travel ban and a freeze of assets.

It additionally said Syria must stop meddling in Lebanese domestic affairs, directly or indirectly, refrain from any attempt aimed at destabilizing Lebanon and respect its neighbour's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

A paragraph in the draft contained an implied threat of economic sanctions against Damascus, warning that it would consider "further measures pursuant to Article 41 of the (UN) charter, if needed, to ensure compliance by Syria."

This article, which stipulates that the Council can decide what measures not involving the use of force must be taken to ensure compliance, could face resistance from veto-wielding members China and Russia, which are known to be reluctant to resort to sanctions.

The Security Council is expected to formally discuss Syria at a meeting early next week. Diplomats hope to arrive at a final draft resolution by then.

Some Security Council members consider a resolution on Syria premature and suggest waiting for the Mehlis commission to complete its probe.

Mehlis said his team now has until December 15 to pursue its work in line with an extension request made by the Lebanese government and approved by UN chief Kofi Annan.

Mehlis urged Syrian authorities "to show greater and meaningful cooperation and to provide any relevant substantial evidence on the assassination," suggesting they also conduct their own investigation into the murder.

"This would enable the commission to 'fill in the gaps' and to have a clearer picture about the organizers and perpetrators of the 14 February terrorist act," he added.

In response to Mehlis' report last week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wrote to Washington, London and Paris on Sunday pledging to prosecute any Syrian "proved by concrete evidence" to be linked to the Hariri murder, The Washington Post said Wednesday.

"I have declared that Syria is innocent of this crime," Assad said in the letter, suggesting his government would cooperate in the UN probe, according to the daily.

However, the Syrian leader also warned that any pressure brought to bear on Syria -- UN sanctions, for example -- "will have big, serious repercussions on the already tense situation which our region goes through."

Diplomats told the Post that two versions of Assad's letter were delivered: one with the pledge to prosecute was sent to Washington, London and Paris, while another omitting the pledge was sent to other Security Council members.

US President George W. Bush has accused Damascus of destabilizing Lebanon and backing terrorists and said the United Nations must hold Damascus accountable.

"Syria and its leaders must be held accountable for their continuing support for terrorism, including any involvement in the murder of prime minister Hariri," he said in a speech at Bolling Air Force Base.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged "balanced action" from the world community toward Syria "so as not to allow new flashpoints of tension in the region."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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