Syrian minister heads to UN meeting

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa headed to New York to attend a UN Security Council meeting expected to adopt a resolution that could threaten sanctions against Syria.

    Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa will meet Kofi Annan

    Meanwhile on Sunday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was touring Gulf countries in what appeared to be an effort to rally Arab support ahead of the meeting scheduled for Monday.

    The United States, France and Britain are promoting the resolution expected to be put to a vote at the Security Council. Russia and Algeria oppose its threat of sanctions.

    UN resolution

    The draft resolution strongly backs a report by the UN investigating commission that implicated top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the 14 February bomb death of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri and accused Syria of not cooperating fully with the inquiry.

    Moallem seeks Arab support
    ahead of the UN meeting 

    The resolution would require Syria to detain anyone the UN investigators consider a suspect and allow the investigators to 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.

    The official Syrian news agency, SANA, said al-Sharaa would meet in New York UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as well as a number of foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's member states. He is accompanied by Foreign Ministry adviser Riyad Dawudi.

    Syrian fears

    Moallem began a tour of Gulf countries with a visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, where he delivered a message from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to King Abdullah "on the current situation in the region ... and the debate under way in the Security Council concerning the (al-Hariri) investigation", SANA said.

    Mehlis (L) urged Syria to open its
    own investigation into the killing

    "Some quarters within the Security Council are trying to turn it into a tribunal whereby Chapter VII (of the UN charter) would be unfairly applied against Syria," Moallem told reporters after arriving in Qatar from Saudi Arabia.

    "This is a dangerous resolution, prepared a month before release of the Mehlis report during meetings in Paris, London and Washington," Moallem said.

    Al-Assad on Saturday ordered a judicial committee be formed
    to investigate al-Hariri's assassination.

    Deflecting heat

    The announcement, which could be aimed at deflecting heat over accusations that Syria has not been fully cooperating with UN efforts to find al-Hariri's killers, came several days after chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis urged Syria to conduct its own investigation into the assassination to help "fill in the gaps" about who orchestrated the killing.

    A presidential decree said the new committee would cooperate with Mehlis's investigation commission and Lebanese judicial authorities.

    Syria has sharply criticised the UN report but expressed willingness to cooperate in Mehlis's investigation, which has been extended until 15 December.

    While Syria has rejected accusations of its involvement in al-Hariri's killing, it did buckle under international pressure and withdrew its soldiers from Lebanon in April, ending a 29-year presence in its smaller neighbour. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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