The UN has put the ball firmly in Syria’s court over the probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
Yesterday German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis presented an interim report, concluding that Syrian security officials had plotted to kill Hariri with the collusion of their Lebanese counterparts.
Mehlis said it was now up to Damascus to fill in the gaps: “The Syrian authorities may wish to carry out on their part their own investigation into the assassination of Mr. Hariri in an open and transparent manner,” he told the UN Security Council.
While insisting there is still room for diplomacy, US President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have refused to rule out possible military action against Syria, and say Damascus should take the report’s findings seriously.
“They should not, as they have done so far, be dismissive of this report,” said Rice, who is currently in Canada for talks with the government. “The attitude of the Syrian government should be one that they recognise that the international community expects them to take it seriously and cooperate.
Syria has strongly refuted the report, saying it was unfairly influenced by the political climate in Lebanon following Hariri’s assassination in February.
It also says similar charges could be levelled at any number of national security services.
A draft Security Council resolution circulated by France and the US is now being considered. It would require the government to detain any Syrian suspects under investigation. It would also impose a travel ban and asset freeze on suspects in the inquiry.