Security Council fails to mention Syria sanctions

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Monday a watered-down resolution calling on Syria to cooperate with the international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, but not mentioning the possibility of imposing sanctions if Damascus does not comply. The resolution, presented by the US, France and Britain, demands that Syria provide all the information needed for German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis's investigation in the month and a half remaining until his team files its final report. It also requires Syria to allow the team to question government officials about possible involvement in the bombing that killed Hariri on February 14. The resolution passed warns Syria that it might face "further action" if it does not show full cooperation with the Mehlis investigation and requires Syria to detain and hand over individuals needed for questioning and demands that assets of those suspected of being involved in the murder be frozen. This language is a toned-down version of the original draft, which explicitly mentioned the threat of imposing international sanctions if Syria does not cooperate fully with the inquiry. The resolution's co-sponsors also left out the call for Syria to fight terror after other Security Council members claimed that was not relevant to the Hariri assassination. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev praised the resolution, saying that Israel "welcomes the decision, and we support the efforts of the UN not only to move forward on the investigation on the murder of Hariri but also for full implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559," which called for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the disarmament of armed militias there. The decision not to include a threat of sanctions was reached after lengthy negotiations Sunday evening between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers of Russia and China, which opposed sanctions and the original harsh language. The talks ended Monday morning, only minutes before the Security Council meeting. Rice told the council's members that by adopting the resolution, the international community was demanding Syria change the role it was playing in the Middle East and make a strategic decision regarding its future. "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," she said. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said that the resolution puts Syria "on notice" and added that "our patience has limits." Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk a-Shara, who came to the UN to attend the meeting, claimed that Security Council members were using double standards toward Syria, and that they have never adopted resolutions against Israel. He went on to attack the Mehlis report, claiming that blaming Syria of involvement in the Hariri investigation was the same as blaming the US for the attacks of September 11 or Britain for the train attacks of July 7. At this point Straw replied angrily and called Shara's remarks "most grotesque and insensitive." Shara did, however, say that his country would fully cooperate with the international investigation. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.