Bolton: Assad not exempt from probe

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not be exempt from being questioned by the commission investigation the killing of former Lebanon prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

    Close relatives of Bashar al-Assad appear in the Mehlis report

    "It absolutely includes the president of Syria," he said on Wednesday. "No person is above the law, and the president's had time to talk to the media ... If he has time to do that, he has time to talk to commissioner Mehlis."

    Britain, France and the US - permanent Security Council members - circulated a draft resolution late on Tuesday that strongly backs the Mehlis report, which implicates top Syrian and Lebanese security officials in al-Hariri's killing.

    Bolton defended the draft resolution's intention to consider "further measures", including economic sanctions, if Syria refuses to cooperate, saying it was "part of sending a strong signal to Syria".
    "As the Russian government has the chance to review the resolution, we're hoping that we're going to get their support for it," he said.

    Russia adamant

    But Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin, appeared quite adamant. "Russia opposes sanctions against Syria," he said on Wednesday while accompanying Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on a trip to Israel, according to the Interfax, Itar-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies.

    "Russia will be doing everything necessary to prevent attempts to impose sanctions against Syria."
    Algeria's UN Ambassador Abdallah Baali, whose country is the only Arab member of the Security Council, said the draft "definitely raises difficult problems for Algeria, probably other countries".

    Bolton: Draft resolution is part of
    sending a strong signal to Syria

    "Our wish is to see Syria cooperate with the commission," he said. "The draft resolution should focus on assisting the commission in finding the truth, the whole truth and nothing else. ... In general, we don't like sanctions."

    The son of Rafiq al-Hariri, however, said on Wednesday he opposes possible UN sanctions against neighbouring Syria in connection with the killing.

    The comments from Saad al-Hariri came after the US, France and Britain challenged the rest of the UN Security Council to adopt a tough resolution that would threaten sanctions if Damascus failed to cooperate fully with a UN investigation into the killing.

    "No, I'm not for sanctions against Syria," he said after meeting President Jacques Chirac in Paris. "I think the international community wants more cooperation from Syria for their investigation."

    Professionalism praised

    Chirac praised the "professionalism and impartiality" of the UN inquiry, led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, into the 14 February killing, and expressed hope that justice would be done.

    "That is the objective of France," Chirac said, in comments relayed by presidential spokesman Jerome Bonnafont.

    Saad al-Hariri said he opposed
    UN sanctions against Syria

    "We need to continue to find the people who decided and committed and financed this heinous crime," he said, and insisted that Lebanon and Syria have had "a very long, historic friendship".
    "We would like to keep it this way," Saad al-Hariri said.

    The Arab League too has rejected any possible sanctions against Syria. The league said in a statement that there is no logic or legitimacy in imposing any sanctions on the basis of incomplete accusations, adding that the investigation has not ended.

    The sanctions will only exacerbate the region's problems, the Arab League statement said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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