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U.N. vote demands Syria cooperation


U.N. Security Council

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council has voted unanimously in favor of a resolution demanding Syria cooperate with a U.N. investigation into the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri or face "further action."

Last-minute diplomatic haggling deleted a direct reference to the threat of sanctions on the Syrian government, but the effect of Monday's resolution is the same.

The United States, France and Britain had sponsored the resolution after a U.N. report published earlier in October blamed Syrian security forces and its Lebanese allies for the bombing that killed Hariri and 20 others in Beirut on February 14. Syria denies the accusations.

The assassination of Hariri, a veteran Lebanese politician who had become a critic of Syria's military occupation of Lebanon, triggered massive protests that eventually led to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.

The resolution is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which holds open the ultimate possibility of the Security Council considering the use of force with failure to comply.

Speaking in Monday's meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the resolution "made it clear that failure to comply with these demands will lead to serious consequences from the international community." She called the Chapter 7 resolution "the only way to compel the Syrians" to cooperate.

The resolution calls for U.N. investigators to report to the Security Council on Syrian cooperation by December 15 or "anytime before" if the investigation sees a lack of cooperation.

The resolution calls for sanctions on people suspected of involvement in the "planning, sponsoring, organizing or perpetrating" the assassination -- including travel bans and freezing of assets.

A Security Council committee will be formed to help designate those individuals along with the Lebanese government and the U.N. investigative commission.

The resolution requires suspects to be arrested and detained for questioning by the U.N. inquiry commission led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. He and his investigators have the authority, according to the resolution, "to determine the location and modalities" for any interviews.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw told the Security Council the Syrian government's "grudging and evasive attitude has to change" and said the resolution is "putting the government of Syria on notice that our patience has limits."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said: "Syria's leaders must understand that the Security Council, and through it the international community as a whole, will not tolerate anything less than immediate and complete cooperation, and that it will draw the consequences of any failure by the Syrian authorities to meet their obligations."

Both Russia and China -- which had opposed the threat of sanctions against Syria -- warned against hasty moves to sanctions against the Syrian government. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the final resolution "not ideal" but said it showed the "determination of all members of the council to find the truth"

Eleven of the 15 Security Council members were represented by their foreign ministers -- including all five veto-holding permanent members -- underlining the importance placed on the vote.

The resolution also allows a further extension beyond December 15 if the Lebanese or the U.N. inquiry deem necessary.

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