15 December 2005 Voicing “extreme concern” that Syria has not yet provided full and unconditional cooperation to the United Nations inquiry into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Security Council today unanimously demanded that the Syrian Government respond “unambiguously and immediately” in all necessary areas of the probe.
At the same time, the 15-member body extended the mandate of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) for at least another six months until 15 June and authorized it to give technical assistance to investigations into other terrorist attacks in Lebanon.
Council Resolution 1644, following UNIIIC's latest report on new evidence pointing to Syria's involvement in Mr. Hariri's murder and Syrian procrastination and efforts to hinder the probe, acknowledged the Lebanese Government's request that those eventually charged be tried by a tribunal of an international character.
It requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to help the Lebanese Government identify the nature and scope of the international assistance needed for this and to report back soon to the Council.
The Council also requested the Commission to report back to it every three months or earlier if it deems that Syrian cooperation does not meet the requirements of this or previous resolutions. Resolution 1636, adopted in October, held out the possibility of “further action” in the case of Syrian non-compliance with the Council's call to detain Syrian suspects already identified by UNIIIC and to clarify all unresolved issues.
Mr. Hariri's assassination on 14 February, in which 22 other people were also killed when his car was blown up, led to renewed calls for the withdrawal of all Syrian troops and intelligence agents who had been in Lebanon since the early stages of the country's 1975-1990 civil war. In April, the UN reported that troops were withdrawn.
In its latest report UNIIIC said it had “credible information” that Syrian officials had arrested and threatened close relatives of a witness who recanted testimony he had previously given the Commission, and that two Syrian suspects it questioned indicated that all Syrian intelligence documents on Lebanon had been burned.
It added that detailed information by a new witness, deemed to be credible, pointed directly at “perpetrators, sponsors and organizers of an organized operation aiming to kill Mr. Hariri, including the recruitment of special agents by the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence services, handling of improvised explosive devices, a pattern of threats against targeted individuals, and planning of other criminal activities.”
Addressing the Council today, Ibrahim Assaf of Lebanon welcomed the resolution as an indication of the 15-member body's commitment to help his country during the current trying period.
He also called attention to the explosions that had taken place in Lebanon in recent months, including Monday's killing of journalist and lawmaker Gibran Tueni, and emphasized Lebanon's determination to preserve its freedom and independence.
Syria's Ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, said that despite the insinuations of some, his country had fully cooperated with the probe even given the relatively short time-frame. He also said that the Security Council had adopted numerous resolutions on the Middle East in the past few decades which were still awaiting implementation.
Ambassador Mekdad added that certain Council members had reached "selective conclusions" based on the UNIIIC reports to paint a negative picture of Syria, which had met its responsibilities and would continue to do so in the period ahead.