France, US said to ready Syria motions

The United States and France are readying new UN Security Council resolutions critical of Syria ahead of a UN report expected to show Syrian complicity in a political assassination, diplomats and US officials said.

    Detlev Mehlis (L) is to submit a report on al-Hariri's killing soon

    The timing of the resolutions, which officials described on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because negotiations are not final, is intended to highlight recent allegations that Syria is funnelling weapons and stirring up trouble in Palestinian camps in Lebanon.

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed Syria and Lebanon during an unannounced breakfast with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday.

    "It was a good opportunity for her to raise the issues surrounding the calendar," US State Department spokesman Sean

    McCormack said afterwards.

    Anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon blame Syria for the

    assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-

    Hariri, a charge Syria denies.

    UN investigator Detlev

    Mehlis is to release a report on the inquiry into the killing by 24 October.

    Mehlis has named four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals as

    suspects and questioned seven Syrian officials, one of whom -

    Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan - reportedly committed suicide last

    week.

    Reports

    Two measures are in the works, one of which recommends

    what to do with Mehlis' report. The other

    concerns US allegations that Syria is

    supporting anti-Israeli fighters in Palestinian refugee

    camps inside Lebanon.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad 
    denies any part in al-Hariri's death

    Both UN measures would probably be sponsored by France,

    a former colonial power in Lebanon. The

    reports are expected to be taken up by the Security

    Council next week.

    Also in the works is a report on Syrian compliance with

    joint US-French-sponsored Security Council resolution 1599 last year

    that demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon

    .

    The US State Department's McCormack said US

    officials wanted to discuss both reports with other council

    members and other countries.

    The goal, he said, was to review "what actions, what

    further steps, if any, might be warranted by what's

    contained in the reports. But we have to see what's in the

    reports first".

    Rice shuttled among Paris, Moscow and London last week for

    discussions that included the Syria-Lebanon question six

    months after Syria withdrew forces from its much-smaller n

    eighbour.

    Syria was the dominant military and political force in

    Lebanon for nearly three decades, and the Bush

    administration charges that Syrian intelligence agents

    remained there.

    The US is also at loggerheads with Damascus over

    its alleged support for Iraqi fighters, accusing it of

    failing to do enough to stop foreign fighters from crossing into

    Iraq.

    Lebanese urge tribunal

    Separately on Tuesday, a Lebanese judge charged a former

    Syrian intelligence officer accused of lying to UN

    investigators in the al-Hariri case.

    Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan is
    said to have committed suicide

    Al-Hariri supporters also began lobbying foreign embassies

    representing United Nations Security Council members to

    back their call to set up an international tribunal to try

    those responsible for his murder.

    One of the new UN measures would seek an extension of

    Mehlis' mandate, a US official said, perhaps to continue

    investigation or to refer his findings to some kind of

    court or tribunal.

    The Lebanese government has asked to extend the Mehlis

    investigation, but a UN diplomat, speaking on condition

    of anonymity, said

    Lebanese officials were divided about whether to expand it

    to cover the apparent suicide of Syria's interior minister and the

    assassination and attempted assassination of journalists.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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