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Syria Hindering Hariri Probe, Bolton Says

Syria Hindering Hariri Probe, Bolton Says

Lack of cooperation slowing U.N. investigation

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The United States August 25 called on Syria to cooperate with the U.N. investigation into the terrorist attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

After a three-hour private meeting with U.N. Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari on the status of the investigation, the U.N. Security Council issued a press statement through its president calling for all countries to cooperate with the investigation, which is headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.

In its statement the council did not mention Syria by name, but U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, speaking with journalists after the meeting, singled Syria out for its lack of cooperation with the investigation.

"There is no doubt from the briefing we received today that Syria's lack of cooperation with the Mehlis investigation has considerably slowed down the Mehlis commission's work," Bolton said.

"This lack of cooperation is unacceptable," the ambassador said.

The commission initially contacted all the parties on June 11 asking for cooperation. After receiving no response from Syria, the commission then sent another request to Damascus on July 19, Bolton said. "Now, finally, on the 26th of August in Europe there will be a meeting to discuss what the cooperation might be," he said.

"As Mr. Mehlis himself said he doesn't want discussions, he wants cooperation," the ambassador said. "This is an investigation of a brutal assassination and the fact is that the evidence and the evidentiary trail grows cold with delay. Anybody knows that the lack of cooperation that potential material witnesses and parties bring can impede an investigation very severely.

“The Syrian Government needs to cooperate actively, immediately," Bolton said.

"The members of the council noted with satisfaction that the commission has significantly advanced the course of its investigation. They reiterated their full support to the commission in its efforts to help identify those responsible for the crime," the Security Council said in its statement read by council President Kenzo Oshima of Japan.

"Considering that cooperation with the commission of all those who may possess relevant information pertaining to the crime is essential to the inquiry, the members of the council reiterated their call on all states and all parties, especially those who are yet to respond adequately, to cooperate fully in order to expedite the work of the commission," the statement said.

Bolton said that the United States was "disappointed that we couldn't be clearer in the council."

"But let there be no ambiguity about the American view that Syria's lack of cooperation with the independent international investigatory commission is not acceptable," the ambassador said.

Mehlis will be at U.N. headquarters in September to report to the council personally, Gambari said.

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