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(photo credit: AP)
Syria still is not fully cooperating with a probe into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, and investigators would need two more years at this rate, the chief of the inquiry told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
Detlev Mehlis acknowledged that Syria had permitted five high-ranking officials to be interviewed in Vienna, and he later said it was too early to say if Syria was in violation of a Security Council resolution that threatened "further action" unless Syria cooperates.
"It remains to be seen whether the Syrian cooperation will be in full and without any conditions," Mehlis told the council as he presented his latest progress report on the probe. He later added: "We definitely are not seeing full cooperation because that would be cooperation in a timely manner."
Mehlis' statements apparently did not persuade diplomats on the 15-nation council to seek sanctions against Damascus.
Instead, the council was considering two Lebanese requests: to widen the probe into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's death to include other political killings; and to form an international tribunal that would try suspects in his death.
France circulated a draft resolution late Tuesday that would extend Mehlis' probe, which had been scheduled to end Dec. 15, by another six months as he has requested.
After hearing Mehlis' briefing, the council was sharply divided. Some, like Britain and France, expressed a general willingness, while others, including Algeria, were more cautious.
"Some support it. Some said we need to study it further and some kept silent," Algeria's UN Ambassador Abdallah Baali said.
US Ambassador John Bolton, one of Syria's toughest critics, said US officials were still considering how best to ensure that Syria cooperates with the probe. He did not rule out sanctions, but he did not focus on them.
"The government of Syria responds unfortunately only to pressure, at least that's our experience to date, so we are considering what additional pressure we will bring to bear," Bolton said.