Monday, January 02, 2006

UN Seeks To

From Associated Press:

BEIRUT, Lebanon - U.N. investigators pressed the Syrian government to let them question the president and foreign minister about the assassination of a former Lebanese leader, a spokeswoman for the inquiry said Monday.

Nasra Hassan, who speaks for a U.N. commission heading the probe, also said investigators want to interview former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam "as soon as possible."

Khaddam alleged in a television interview broadcast Friday from Paris that the Syrian president had threatened former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri several months before Hariri was assassinated in a Feb. 14 truck bombing.

"The U.N. commission has already sent a request to interview Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, among others," Hassan told The Associated Press.

"The commission is waiting for a response from the Syrians," she said. She refused to say when the request was made.

The commission has said several people whom Hariri spoke to after he met Assad in August 2004 said he told them the Syrian leader had threatened him over his opposition to extending the term of Lebanon's pro-Syrian president.

Syrian officials, including al-Sharaa, have denied any threat was made.

But after Khaddam's interview, Syria's ruling Baath Party stripped him of membership and joined parliament in demanding his trial on a charge of high treason, the official news agency SANA reported Sunday.

In two interim reports published late last year, the commission accused Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials of being involved in Hariri's killing. In an interview with the media, the outgoing commission chairman, Detlev Mehlis, has said Syrian "authorities" were behind the assassination.

Syria has repeatedly denied the charge and tried to discredit those who testified to the commission.

The assassination of Hariri, in a blast that killed 20 other people in central Beirut, was a turning point in modern Lebanese history.

As he was seen as a quiet opponent of Syrian influence in Lebanon, his killing provoked mass demonstrations against Syria. Combined with international pressure on Syria, these protests forced Damascus to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April, ending a 29-year military presence.

But the bombings targeting anti-Syrian figures have continued, with at least 14 attacks on prominent Lebanese since Hariri's death. Lebanon has asked the United Nations to investigate those as well, but the world body has declined.

And, if Assad refuses to be interviewed, what will the UN do? Nothing? Sanctions?

When is the last time sanctions have worked? Has North Korean given up their nuclear weapons? Did Saddam give up his WMD's? Did the killing stop in Bosnia, Sudan, Rwanda?

Can't wait for those sanctions to take effect. Can't wait to watch the toothless tiger bite down.