October 31, 2005 in Nation/World

U.N. Syria resolution still iffy

Edith M. Lederer Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS – The United States, France and Britain remained at odds with Russia and China on Sunday over a tough U.N. resolution demanding that Syria cooperate with a probe into the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister or face possible sanctions.

But U.S. Ambassador John Bolton predicted the resolution will be approved at a Security Council meeting today to be attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other foreign ministers.

Rice and her counterparts from the four other veto-wielding Security Council powers were expected to meet Sunday evening to discuss the resolution, council diplomats said. It would be the last opportunity to change the text ahead of this morning’s Security Council vote.

Foreign ministers from almost all 15 council nations were expected to cast votes, a high-level presence that Washington and its allies hope will send a message to Damascus of the serious international concern at its failure to cooperate in the probe of Rafik Hariri’s assassination.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa also flew to New York on Sunday to attend the council meeting and meet with some of the foreign ministers and U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

All 15 Security Council members support the resolution’s demand for Syria’s full cooperation, but the United States, France and Britain are insisting on the threat of sanctions to put added pressure on Syria to comply.

Russia, China and Algeria, a non-permanent council member and its only Arab representative, oppose the threat of sanctions, saying it’s too early because the investigation has been extended until Dec. 15 and no final results have been produced.

Bolton said Friday the resolution has the nine “yes” votes required for adoption and will likely have more by the time of the vote. “I don’t foresee a veto,” he said, a view echoed by his French and British co-sponsors.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said that adoption of the resolution by foreign ministers “is to show the intensity of the concern, and to make it very clear at the highest level what we expect.”

If the co-sponsors want to get unanimous support from all 15 council nations, they will have to drop the sanctions threat, diplomats said privately.

The draft resolution strongly backs a report by the U.N. investigating commission led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, which implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the Feb. 14 bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others and accused Syria of not cooperating fully with the probe.

The resolution would require Syria to detain anyone the U.N. investigators considered a suspect and to let investigators determine the location and conditions under which the individual would be questioned. It would freeze assets and impose a travel ban on anyone identified as a suspect by the commission.

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.”

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