Tue, Nov 01, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Syria faces tough UN resolution

SANCTIONS The UN is expected to approve a resolution demanding that Syria cooperate with the investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri


The US, France and the UK expect that the UN Security Council will approve a tough resolution demanding that Syria cooperate with the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Ahead of yesterday's vote, foreign ministers from the three countries dined with their counterparts from Russia and China, who oppose the resolution's threat of sanctions if Syria refuses to cooperate with probe.

The dinner on Sunday night at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, hosted by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, provided a last chance for the five permanent veto-wielding council members to discuss the resolution.

The US, France and the UK co-sponsored the resolution to follow up last week's report by a UN investigating commission which implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the Feb. 14 bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri and 20 others and accused Syria of not cooperating fully with the probe.

US Ambassador John Bolton said on Friday the resolution has the nine "yes" votes required for approval, 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.

But council diplomats said that if Washington, Paris and London want to get unanimous support from all 15 council nations -- which would send a more powerful message to Syria -- they will have to drop the sanctions threat.

Otherwise, the resolution will likely be adopted with 12 "yes" votes and three abstentions -- by Russia, China and Algeria, a non-permanent council member and its only Arab representative, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk ahead of the vote.

There was no immediate word from the five ministers on their two-hour dinner meeting attended by Rice, Russia's Sergey Lavrov, China's Li Zhaoxing (李肇星), the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and France's Philippe Douste-Blazy.

Lavrov and Li, who met alone for about 45 minutes before the dinner, refused to say how they would vote yesterday.

"Just wait and see," Li said.

The latest draft would require Syria to detain anyone the UN investigators consider a suspect and 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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