British, Syrian envoys trade barbs

The foreign ministers of Britain and Syria exchanged angry words over a UN resolution seeking to pressure Damascus into cooperating with an investigation into the murder of former Lebanese premier Rafiq al-Hariri.

    Syrian Minister Faruq al-Shara called the measure 'illogical'

    Dismissing the adoption on Monday of the resolution as "illogical," Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara said implicating Syrian officials in the assassination was akin to implicating the US, Spanish and British governments in terrorist acts on their territory, including the 11 September 2001 attacks.

    Demanding the right to respond on the floor of the UN Security Council, the furious British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, condemned al-Shara's comparison as "grotesque and insensitive".

    He said al-Shara's "at best absurd" comments should allay any concerns among some UN Security Council members about the need to adopt a resolution to ensure Syrian cooperation with the assassination investigation.


    Al-Shara's comparison was triggered by the accusation of the UN commission investigating al-Hariri's murder that the decision to assassinate the former premier could not have taken place without Syria's knowledge and approval.

    Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
    demanded the right to respond

    Picking up on a previous statement by Straw on the "medieval" nature of political assassination, al-Shara said the commission's investigation had been "near medieval" in assuming Syria's guilt before due process.

    He said similar charges of guilt by implication could just as easily be levelled against the US government over September 11, against Madrid for the train bombings of March 2003 and against the British government for the attacks on the London transit system in July.

    Straw's response was terse and combative.

    "If you are suggesting that what happened on the 11th of September, the third of March and the seventh of July happened with the approval of the governments of the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom, I think you ought to say so," Straw told his Syrian counterpart.

    "Otherwise, your comparison is entirely worthless," he said.



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