February 23, 2006

UN Hariri probe chief talks cooperation in Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The new chief U.N. investigator held "a
good meeting" with Syrian officials on Thursday on cooperation
with the inquiry into the killing of Lebanese ex-Prime Minister
Rafik al-Hariri, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

Serge Brammertz was driven in a heavily guarded convoy
across the Lebanese border into Syria for his first visit to
the Syrian capital since taking over from Detlev Mehlis last

"He held a working meeting with Syrian officials in which
old and new issues of cooperation were discussed," she told
Reuters in Beirut. "It was a good meeting."

The spokeswoman said Brammertz had returned to Beirut but
gave no further details on who represented the Syrian side at
the talks. Lebanese security sources said Brammertz and four
aides spent five hours in Syria before returning by land.

The Syrian authorities did not comment on the report.

The United Nations has demanded full Syrian cooperation
with the investigation into the February 14 2005 killing of
Hariri. The Security Council has threatened Syria with further
action -- possibly sanctions -- if it does not do so.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during a brief
visit to Beirut on Thursday, urged Syria to cooperate fully
with the investigation.

Syria has refused requests by Mehlis to question President
Bashar al-Assad on the murder but allowed security officials to
be questioned in Vienna.

Mehlis had implicated senior Syrian security officials and
their Lebanese allies in the killing. Four Lebanese generals
are under arrest in Lebanon.

Large protests in Beirut accusing Damascus of the murder
forced Syria to bow to international pressure in April and end
three decades of military presence in its smaller neighbor.