U.S., others put pressure on Syria


first_imgUNITED NATIONS – The United States, France and Britain on Tuesday demanded that Syria detain government officials suspected of involvement in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister and ensure their cooperation with a U.N. probe or face possible sanctions. The call was contained in a strongly worded draft resolution that orders Syria to make the suspected officials or individuals “fully and unconditionally available” to investigators who have accused Syria of obstructing their work. That language was a clear attempt to pressure Syria into giving the probe access to top security officials – possibly including the brother-in-law of President Bashar Assad – who may have been involved in the Feb. 14 assassination of Rafik Hariri. In a report released last week, chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the assassination and said Syria was not cooperating fully with his probe. Syria hotly denies those claims. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The central challenge now for the resolution will be getting the support of Russia and China, which have been hesitant to use the threat of sanctions to back up a call for more Syrian cooperation. President George W. Bush insisted Tuesday that the United Nations hold Syrian leaders “accountable for their continuing support of terrorism.” Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a phone conversation Tuesday with Assad, welcomed Syria’s stated willingness to cooperate with the investigation and emphasized that the council must proceed carefully. The two discussed the “urgent need for cautious action by the international community in order to prevent the emergence of new sources of tension in the region,” the Kremlin said in a statement. The new draft spells out a list of stern measures against Syria. It would slap an immediate travel ban and asset freeze on suspects identified by the commission. It states that Syria must allow interviews to take place outside the country and without Syrian official presence – a key concern of the Mehlis. “I think we’ve learned something about trying to interview witnesses in an authoritarian society,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said in a reference to U.S. efforts to interview Iraqi scientists during its hunt for weapons of mass destruction. If Syria does not fully cooperate with the investigation, the draft says the council intends to consider “further measures,” including sanctions, “to ensure compliance by Syria.” In an appearance before the council earlier Tuesday, Mehlis urged Syria to help “fill in the gaps” about who orchestrated the car bombing that killed Hariri and 20 other people in Beirut. “I cannot send 500 investigators, which I do not have, to Syria to look for documents because I do not know where I would find them,” he told reporters after emerging from the council meeting. “It would be a good idea if the Syrian authorities made an extra effort by themselves.” France’s Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said: “We should not tolerate anything short of full cooperation.” The Security Council could hold a meeting Monday, attended by the 15 members’ foreign ministers, to adopt the resolution, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said. Diplomats say the presence of the foreign ministers would give the resolution added weight and increase pressure on Syria. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more