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CORRECTED: US faults Syrian cooperation on UN Hariri inquiry

June 15, 2006

Corrects title in paragraph 9 to Syrian Deputy Foreign
Minister Fayssal Mekdad

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States accused Syria
on Wednesday of failing to cooperate fully with a U.N. inquiry
into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik
al-Hariri.

The accusation, by U.S. United Nations Ambassador John
Bolton, came despite the latest progress report on the probe
led by Serge Brammertz of Belgium, which described Syrian
cooperation as “generally satisfactory.”

“It is very clear that Mr. Brammertz does not say in the
report that Syria is fully cooperating,” Bolton told reporters
after Brammertz briefed the Security Council on the U.N.
investigative commission’s work. Earlier reports had accused
Syria of obstructing the investigation into Hariri’s 2005
assassination.

Brammertz’s report, sent to the council on Saturday, said
Damascus “responded to all the commission’s requests in a
timely manner and in some instances comprehensive responses
were provided.”

“That is hardly a ringing endorsement,” Bolton said.
Comprehensive responses in only some instances “obviously
implies that in some other instances — maybe a majority of
instances — comprehensive responses were not provided.”

Detlev Mehlis, the German who led the commission until
January, had made clear in his reports his view that senior
Syrian intelligence officials and their Lebanese allies were
probably behind Hariri’s February 14, 2005, assassination.
Hariri and 18 others died in a massive bomb as his motorcade
traveled down a Beirut street.

Mehlis, who suggested Syria’s leaders may have had Hariri
killed for challenging Syria’s domination of Lebanon, had
repeatedly complained about Syrian obstruction of his work.

Syria has repeatedly denied any role in the killing and
insisted it was fully cooperating.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad told the
council on Wednesday that the biggest danger facing the
investigation was the attempt by unnamed parties, who wanted to
put pressure on Syria, “to jump to prejudgments which are not
based on clear evidence or truth.”

Lebanon is trying to put behind it some three decades of
Syrian domination while Washington is pushing Damascus to end
its support for armed groups that attack Israel and to seal its
border with Iraq to prevent insurgents from entering.

Thursday is the final day of the U.N. commission’s mandate,
and Brammertz asked the Security Council to extend it for an
additional year. He also asked for more staff and money to
establish whether 14 other bomb attacks in Lebanon were linked
to the Hariri assassination.

Bolton said Washington supported both requests.


Source: reuters



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