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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Japan Today - News - Syria pledges to cooperate after U.N. Hariri murder report - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Syria pledges to cooperate after U.N. Hariri murder report - Japan's Leading International News NetworkSyria pledges to cooperate after U.N. Hariri murder report

Sunday, October 23, 2005 at 06:58 JST
DAMASCUS — Syria on Saturday pledged to cooperate with the international community even as it rejected a U.N. report on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri that implicated top Syrian figures.

The report accused Syria of blocking and misleading the four-month-long investigation into the February bomb blast that killed Hariri and 20 others on the Beirut seafront, and raised the threat of international sanctions.


"The report was influenced by the political climate that prevailed in Lebanon after the (Hariri) assassination, and it is based on preconceived ideas that led to accusatory and slanderous conclusions against Syria without any proof," said joint foreign minister Ahmed Arnus.

Syria will be the "only one to suffer the negative consequences of this report," he told a press conference in the Syrian capital.

Foreign ministry legal adviser Riad Daudi said the report was "politicised by regional and international parties with a view to harming Syria," and added that the "report presents no proof... it was based on hypotheses."

Daudi criticized the credibility of testimony provided by Hariri allies cited in the report, who gave their accounts of Syrian threats against Hariri, the former prime minister and popular billionaire business tycoon.

Nevertheless, "Syria remains committed to the decisions of international legality, and we will continue to cooperate with the international community," Daudi said.

"We don't say 'no' to cooperation, but we must see under what conditions."

Syria is "ready to deploy every effort to clarify the content of this report," he said.

The report, released by German chief prosecutor Detlev Mehlis on Thursday in New York, found "converging evidence" of Syrian and Lebanese involvement in Hariri's murder.

"It is incumbent upon Syria to clarify a considerable part of the unresolved questions," the report said.

Witness testimony named President Bashar al-Assad's brother, Maher, who is chief of the presidential guard, and his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who heads military intelligence, as being part of a circle that plotted the assassination.

The assassination sparked political turmoil for Syria, the longtime powerbroker in neighboring Lebanon.

Amid international outcry over the Hariri killing and widespread finger-pointing at Damascus, Syria was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April after a 29-year military presence.

Analysts said that for Syria, slapped with U.S. sanctions in 2004 and seeing deteriorating relations with Europe and even some Arab countries, the explosive allegations contained in the U.N. report were likely to bring matters to a head.

The report will mark "the beginning of negotiation or confrontation" between Damascus and the international community, said Lebanese political analyst Joseph Bahut.

Syria's state-run newspaper Tishrin echoed the retorts of Syrian officials who had rejected the results of the probe as erroneous and politically motivated.

"In a crime such as the one committed against Rafiq Hariri, the investigation lasts years and not a few months. The results of the report constitute a mix of contradictions," Tishrin said.

Syrians on the streets of the capital blamed the United States for skewing the report and also voiced concern.

"Americans want to extend their hegemony over Iraq across the entire region via this report," said Samir, a 28-year-old information technology professional.

"Why all this talk about Hariri? Why doesn't anyone do anything about the Palestinians who are being killed every day, not to mention the Iraqis?" asked a man who gave his name only as Samir. (Wire reports)

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