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Monday, October 31, 2005

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Syria faces sanctions vote at UN

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Syria faces sanctions vote at UN Syria faces sanctions vote at UN
The UN Security Council is set to consider punishing Syria if it fails to co-operate fully with the inquiry into the death of Rafik Hariri.

The US, France and the UK are backing a resolution calling for sanctions - in a move rejected by Syria as "dangerous".

The UN inquiry into the Lebanese ex-premier's death suggests Syrian and Lebanese officials were responsible.

Russia and China could both veto the resolution and it is unclear how they will vote despite US optimism.

For the resolution to pass, nine of the Security Council's 15 members must back it.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the resolution, saying the Security Council was "not an investigatory body and it would be wrong to mix criminal procedural mechanisms with interstate relations".

Ministers are due to assemble for the debate later on Monday but it is not clear when the actual vote will be held.

Tough report

Final preparations for the debate were made at a two-hour dinner in New York on Sunday between the foreign ministers of the three sponsors of the resolution, and Russia and China.

Mr Lavrov said he had expressed his concern to his counterparts.

China's Li Zhaoxing told reporters before the dinner that they should "just wait and see".

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said last week he did not foresee a veto.

The Security Council debate comes less than two weeks after UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis issued a hard-hitting report pointing the finger of blame at Syrian and Lebanese officials and accusing Syria of hindering his inquiry.

The draft resolution calls for a travel ban and the freezing of assets of those suspected of involvement in the assassination.

The text also calls for Syria to detain those named by investigators and to allow witnesses and suspects to be interviewed outside the country.

And it threatens further measures such as economic sanctions if Damascus fails to co-operate.

The killing of Hariri in a massive car bombing in Beirut earlier this year led to widespread criticism of Syria, which was forced to withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon as a result.

Syria has criticised the resolution as dangerous and has announced its own inquiry into the death.
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