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Syria threatened with sanctions over Hariri case

The United States and France circulated a draft resolution Tuesday threatening possible sanctions against Syria if Damascus fails to assist a U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
/ Source: The Associated Press

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 draft resolution that orders Syria to make the officials or individuals “fully and unconditionally available” to the U.N. investigating commission.

It states that Syria must allow the commission to interview Syrians that it considers relevant to the inquiry “outside Syria and/or outside the presence of any other Syrian official if the commission so requests.”

If Syria does not fully cooperate with the investigation, the draft says the council intends to consider “further measures” to ensure compliance, including sanctions.

Military enforcement is an option
The draft resolution also calls for anyone designated by the commission as suspected of involvement in Rafik Hariri’s assassination to be subject to a travel ban and to have their assets frozen.

The proposed resolution would be under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which is militarily enforceable.

The United States and France circulated the resolution hours after the chief U.N. investigator, Detlev Mehlis, briefed the council on his report which implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the car bomb that killed Hariri and 20 other people.

Mehlis has said repeatedly that Syria had not fully cooperated and continuing the probe would be nearly impossible if Damascus didn’t change course. He took that message directly to the council in his briefing, urging Syria to help “fill in the gaps” about who orchestrated the bombing, both by cooperating with a probe and studying the crime itself.

Language from resolution
The draft resolution declares that “it is unacceptable that anyone should escape accountability for an act of terrorism because of his own obstruction of the investigation or failure to cooperate in good faith.”

It would endorse the Mehlis commission’s conclusion “based on Syria’s suspected involvement in this terrorist act and lack of adequate cooperation to the inquiry to date, that it is incumbent upon the Syrian authorities to clarify a considerable part of the questions which remain unresolved.”

Under the draft’s provisions, Syria would also be required to renounce terrorism and “commit itself definitively to cease all support for all forms of terrorist action and all assistance to terrorist groups and to demonstrate this undertaking through concrete actions.”

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the Security Council would hold a meeting on Monday at ministerial level to consider the resolution. U.N. diplomats said they expect the ministers to adopt the resolution, which would give added weight to the measure and increase pressure on Syria.