Syria : NY Times disinformation


Richard Moore

    The expected censure of Syria comes at a time when  Mr.
    Assad's government has been thrown on the defensive by a
    deeply incriminating report on the Hariri killing
    delivered Oct. 20 by Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor
    who leads the United Nations investigation.

"Deeply incriminating"? - not at all. No credible evidence was 
presented. See:

What's disturbing here is the indication that Russia & China are 
bowing to U.S. pressure.



October 31, 2005 

U.N. Is Expected to Pass Measure Pressuring Syria 

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 30 - Security Council diplomats
worked out final details on Sunday on a tough resolution
against Syria , an action that will forcefully step up
international pressure on the country's embattled
president, Bashar al-Assad, and deepen his government's
struggle to ward off increasing isolation.

Diplomats from the resolution's three co-sponsors, Britain,
France and the United States , said they expected passage
on Monday and did not foresee  a veto from either China or
Russia , the two countries most reluctant to punish Syria.

The resolution threatens Syria with economic penalties if
it does not give full cooperation to the United Nations
investigation that has identified high-ranking security
officials as suspects in the assassination of a former
Lebanese prime minister,  Rafik Hariri.

The measure also orders Syria to take into custody and
make available to the investigators people they suspect of
involvement in the killing.

That provision in particular could pose a problem for Mr.
Assad, a relatively inexperienced leader perceived as weak
and vulnerable in the power politics of the Middle East.
Among the suspects are his brother, Maher Assad, and his
brother-in- law, Asef Shawkat, the chief of military
intelligence, who is considered the most powerful man in
the country aside from the president.

The expected censure of Syria comes at a time when  Mr.
Assad's government has been thrown on the defensive by a
deeply incriminating report on the Hariri killing
delivered Oct. 20 by Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor
who leads the United Nations investigation.

Mr. Hariri, an opponent of Syrian domination of Lebanese
politics, and 20 others were killed Feb. 14 when a bomb
detonated in a Beirut street as his convoy passed. The
murder was followed by large and angry demonstrations in
Beirut against Syria, which had been obliged by a Security
Council resolution last September to withdraw its troops
and intelligence agents from Lebanon and end its 29-year
control of Lebanese public life.

The United States  has been keeping pressure on Syria,
accusing it of allowing insurgents to cross its border
into Iraq and demanding that it close  the offices of
militant Palestinian groups in Damascus and cease its
longtime support for anti- Israel guerrilla groups like

Although the Middle East has been rocked by the war in
Iraq and leaders there fear that turmoil in Syria could
spill into their countries, none of its neighbors have
come to Syria's defense over the Hariri killing.

That inability of Syria to enlist vocal defenders is
reflected at the United Nations, where even Security
Council members troubled by some provisions of the
resolution have not disagreed about the need  to send
Syria a stern message about its responsibility to
cooperate with the investigation. That includes Algeria ,
the council's lone Arab member.

"There is a unanimous feeling within the Council that
there must be greater cooperation from the Syrians,"
Richard A. Grenell, the spokesman for John R. Bolton, the
United States ambassador, said Sunday.

Mr. Grenell declined to be specific about the anticipated
outcome of  the Monday vote,  but he said that nothing had
occurred during the weekend to alter optimistic statements
on Friday night from Mr. Bolton. Predicting that the
measure already had the nine votes needed for passage, Mr.
Bolton said, "I don't foresee a veto."

Casting the American vote on Monday will be Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice , the leader of the American
diplomatic campaign to isolate Syria.  She is joining
foreign ministers from the other Security Council states
in the higher-level "ministerial" meeting of the panel
that the resolution's sponsors requested to give it added

The foreign ministers of the council's five permanent
members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United
States - held a private dinner in New York Sunday at which
the resolution was to be discussed.

Ms. Rice and other American officials have said they do
not seek "regime change" in Syria but rather "behavior
change." As an example, they point to Libya , where Col.
Muammar el-Qaddafi decided in 2003 to admit the existence
of his weapons programs, agree to dismantle them and
thereby start to shed his country's pariah status.

Even for those wishing to see Mr. Assad's removal, there
is a fear that his successor could come from the ranks of
either his family or cronies in his government of
Allawites, a minority Muslim sect, or from the
fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the most popular
organization among Syria's majority Sunnis.

"For the first term of his presidency, the Bush
administration had a long list of complaints about Syria
that got longer after Iraq," said Flynt Leverett, a Middle
East specialist at the Brookings Institution who worked in
the White House at the start of this presidency. "Since
the second term started, I think they've been moving
toward an undeclared policy of regime change, as long as
it doesn't require too much effort by the United States,"
Mr. Leverett added. "It's regime change on the cheap."

In Damascus, Syrian officials say  the United States has
broken off communication with the country, withdrawing its
ambassador and  not responding to Syrian concerns. That
silence has Syrian officials concerned that the American
goal is to pull down the government. "What do you do if
the other party won't talk?" Bouthaina Shaaban, the
minister of expatriates, said Saturday.

To cope, Syria has reached out to the international
community, including Arab leaders, trying with little
success to promote the idea that it had nothing to do with
Mr. Hariri's death. In that connection, Syria  sent its
deputy foreign minister, Walid al-Mualem, on a tour of
Persian Gulf states on Sunday. On Saturday, President
Assad said  he would set up a commission to conduct
Syria's own investigation into the assassination.

He also  said border agents would be more cautious about
visitors  -  a reference to Arabs who do not need visas
and may be intent on infiltrating Iraq. Syria has also
proposed domestic changes, like giving Kurds citizenship,
to promote national unity.

The text of the Security Council resolution, first
circulated last Monday, has been revised to meet the
objections of individual countries. It calls on all states
to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on anyone who is
designated a suspect in the Hariri slaying. A Security
Council committeewould be established to oversee these
individual penalties and to rule on approving exceptions
in cases like religious travel and emergency need.

In its most contentious provision, the resolution states
that to ensure compliance by Syria it will "consider
further measures" under Article 41 of the United Nations
Charter. That article permits the Council to decide what
diplomatic and economic penalties may be used against a

The revised text still includes the threat of penalties
but it makes several adjustments to meet the objections of
dissenters. In one concession, the co-sponsors moved a
reference to Syria's need to "cease all support for all
forms of terrorist action and all assistance to terrorist
groups" from the text to the preamble,  a section of
Security Council resolutions that  has less force. In
another, language saying that Syria "must stop
interfering" in Lebanese domestic affairs was changed to
"that Syria not interfere."

The Mehlis investigation has been extended to Dec. 15. 
Until then, Mr. Mehlis is to return periodically to report
to the Security Council on Syrian cooperation or lack of

Warren Hoge reported from the United Nations for this
article, and Steven R. Weisman from Washington. Michael
Slackman contributed reporting from Damascus.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company 


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