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UN: Security Council Adopts Resolution Demanding Syrian Cooperation In Hariri Probe

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad faces increasing isolation (file photo) (AFP) The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution demanding Syria's full cooperation with a United Nations investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The measure threatens "further action" against Syria in the event of noncompliance, which is weaker than initial language warning of sanctions. But sponsors of the measure say it shows Syria's increasing isolation.

Washington, 31 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Security Council resolution passed today calls on Syria to cooperate unconditionally with the UN investigation into Rafiq Hariri's killing in February.

The measure says Syrian leaders must take into custody and make available to UN investigators suspects in the killing. This places pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because UN investigators want to question his brother and brother-in-law in the case.

The unanimous vote by the 15-member council in New York included the participation of 12 foreign-minister-level officials. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Security Council the resolution should signal to Syria the gravity of its situation.

"With our decision today we show that Syria has isolated itself from the international community through its false statements, its support for terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its neighbors and its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East. Now the Syrian government needs to make a strategic decision to fundamentally change its behavior," Rice said.

The United States, Great Britain, and France, which sponsored the resolution, removed language threatening Syria with possible sanctions if it failed to cooperate. The softer language was urged by permanent council members China and Russia.

The council action follows a report by a UN investigating commission, led by Detlev Mehlis of Germany, which implicated top Syrian and Lebanese officials in Hariri's killing.

Syria has strongly denied the charges.

The UN resolution on Syria supports travel bans and a freeze in the assets of Lebanese and Syrian officials and any other individuals who are declared suspects in Hariri's killing. The text does not invoke the UN Charter's Article 41, which allows economic embargoes to be imposed on countries or their national institutions.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned that the Security Council will pursue further moves in the event of noncompliance. "We are also, correctly, putting the government of Syria on notice that our patience has limits," he said. "Failure to cooperate fully and now will oblige us to consider further actions to ensure that the Security Council, through the commission [investigating Hariri's assassination], can play its part in the Lebanese government's determination to see justice done."

Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, whose country currently holds the presidency of the council, told reporters action was necessary to contain a potentially volatile situation in Lebanon.

"For the time being with a Lebanon that's been weakened, with the situation in Iraq, with the recent political developments in Iran, with the ongoing peace process in the Near East, a tough message that will address the circumstances that have produced a political assassination [is] very timely," Ungureanu said.

Syrian media earlier today criticized the resolution as too heavily influenced by the United States. But President al-Assad has ordered the formation of a judicial committee to cooperate with the UN investigation and Lebanese judicial officials.