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Security Council Votes to Order Syria to Cooperate With Inquiry

By Warren Hoge


The Security Council voted unanimously Monday to compel Syria to stop obstructing a U.N. investigation into the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri or face unspecified “further action.”

The 15-0 vote was a diplomatic shunning of Syria, which has found itself increasingly isolated since the publication 10 days ago of an initial report by the chief U.N. investigator in the case that identified high-ranking Syrian officials as suspects in the assassination. Among the votes was that of Algeria, the Arab representative on the panel.

While the resolution that was approved did not include a threat of specific economic sanctions, as some earlier drafts did, it keeps such options on the table because it was adopted under a provision that gives the United Nations broad powers to punish noncompliance, diplomats said.

The measure orders Syria to “fully and unconditionally” cooperate with the inquiry and to give complete access to places, documents and people that investigators ask for — a caveat that diplomats said included President Bashar al-Assad, who has refused to be interviewed. The measure further orders Syria not to meddle in Lebanon’s domestic politics, and it calls for international travel bans and asset freezes on suspects the investigation refers to a Security Council panel.

In a statement after casting the U.S. vote, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that “with our decision today, we show that Syria has isolated itself from the international community — through its false statements, its support for terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its neighbors and its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East.

“Now the Syrian government must make a strategic decision to fundamentally change its behavior.”

The co-sponsors of the measure, Britain, France and the United States, won the unanimous vote by agreeing at the last minute to drop a reference to a U.N. Charter article threatening economic sanctions against Syria and replacing it with a warning of unspecified “further action” — which could, in the end, still include such measures.

The diplomatic move, the result of early morning negotiations, succeeded in attracting the support of Algeria, China and Russia, all of whom had indicated they would abstain if the explicit threat of sanctions remained.