U.S., France to Urge Syrian Help with U.N. Probe

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The United States and France announce support for a U.N. report that implicates Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton says the two nations are working on a resolution that will demand Syria's cooperation as the inquiry proceeds.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I'm Melissa Block.

And first up this hour, the growing pressure on Syria over its alleged role in the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The US and France have circulated a draft Security Council resolution. It calls for more cooperation from Syria in the investigation. The draft would require Damascus to detain Syrian officials suspected of involvement in the Hariri assassination or face sanctions. The suggested resolution followed an announcement by the US and France earlier in the day voicing support for a UN report. That report implicates Syria in the February killing of Rafik Hariri. NPR's Corey Flintoff has more.

COREY FLINTOFF reporting:

US Ambassador John Bolton and the French ambassador to the UN spoke to the press on the day the UN chief investigator in the case made a presentation before the Security Council. The investigator, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, took a low-key approach that contrasted sharply with the tenor of his report, which cited witnesses who named Syrian and Lebanese officials as suspects in the assassination. The Mehlis report also accused Syria of failing to give meaningful cooperation to the probe. Mehlis noted that the UN has extended his commission's mandate to investigate until mid-December.

Mr. DETLEV MEHLIS (UN Investigator): The commission is of the view that this would provide yet another opportunity for the Syrian authorities to show greater and meaningful cooperation and to provide any relevant, substantial evidence on the assassination.

FLINTOFF: The Mehlis report accused Syrian officials, including Syria's foreign minister, of giving misinformation to investigators. And it said the Syrians refused to allow the commission to interview potential witnesses outside of Syrian territory, where they might be less susceptible to intimidation.

Ambassador FAISAL MEKDAD (Syrian Ambassador to the UN): (Through Translator) Syria is the main victim of this crime.

FLINTOFF: That's Syria's UN ambassador, Faisal Mekdad, speaking through an interpreter. He repeated his country's position that the assassination hurt Syria as much or more than it did Lebanon. Mekdad maintained that Syria offered full cooperation, and he accused the investigators of pointing a finger at Syria before their probe was complete.

After the Security Council discussed the report in a closed session, US Ambassador John Bolton told reporters that the US and France will offer a joint resolution aimed at pressuring Syria to cooperate.

Ambassador JOHN BOLTON (US Ambassador to the UN): We want a very strong signal from the council to the government of Syria that its obstructionism has to cease and cease immediately.

FLINTOFF: The resolution may not include any mentions of sanctions against Syria if it fails to cooperate. France has indicated that it doesn't favor any sanctions until the investigation is complete. Russia, which has close ties to Syria, is considered likely to veto any resolution that mentions specific action against the Syrian government. Bush administration officials say they'd like to see a resolution on the issue ready by Monday. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.

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