Syria will cooperate with UN

However officials and hundreds of Syrians who turned out to protest in the aftermath of the resolution maintained Damascus’s innocence over the assassination, even though a report by the inquiry team has implicated top security officials here.

The resolution, passed by 15 votes to 0, demands that Syria detain suspects and urges a travel ban and a freeze of assets on all individuals designated as suspects in the slaying.

While a passage threatening sanctions was withdrawn to ensure a unanimous vote, the text does say the the council “if necessary, could consider further action.” It did not spell out what the action could be.

“The resolution is unjust. Syria regrets that such a resolution was adopted unanimously. This arouses concern and regret among the Syrian people,” a high-ranking official in Damascus told AFP.

Student protest

More than 1,000 young Syrians turned out close to the US embassy to react to the resolution, carrying banners proclaiming: “We Have Nothing To Hide.”

Anti-riot police were installed outside the US embassy where they prevented a dozen young people from going in.

Around the banner, carried by two youths in Raodah Square, other demonstrators waved Syrian flags and chanted “America, America, the night will not endure”, and “To attack the ‘ugly American’, is true solidarity.”

Around 200 students mounted another anti-American demonstration outside the Beaux-Arts Institute in the Syrian capital, while around 100 workers and students held another protest in Martyrs’ Square.

Syrian Expatriates Minister Bussaina Shaaban maintained in an interview with CNN that “Syria wants to cooperate because Syria wants to know the truth and wants to know who killed Hariri.

“We are the people who are suffering as a consequence of this terrorist act and we are certainly most interested in finding out who the perpetrators are and we will certainly cooperate until these perpetrators are found,” she said.

One of the most contentious passages in a confidential version of the report was witness testimony linking President Bashar al-Assad’s younger brother and brother-in-law to the murder.

Assad claims

Syria’s ambassador to London Sami Khiyami told the BBC there was no problem with the two men appearing before the UN commission if they were asked. “He (Assad) doesn’t even have to make them, they will go and see the commission.”

But he added: “No more suspicions without evidence. So in fact the commission has to come up with certain indices saying why it wants to consider these people as suspects.”

Referring to accusations from the UN probe that Syria’s cooperation has been inadequate, Mr Khiyami said Damascus would have acted differently if the commission had specifically told the regime Syrians were suspected.

He charged that Syria only found out of the accusations against Mr Assad’s family “when the report was out”.

“Basically, before, they said they had no suspects (in Syria),” he added.

The country’s state media meanwhile were bracing Syrians for a prolonged and difficult stand-off with the international community.

“It is not the first time that Syria is subjected to enormous pressures, even if the ones today are the most dangerous. It has overcome them in the past and will overcome attempts to put it on its knees,” said the editor of the state-run Al-Thawra daily, Fayez Sayegh.

However for all its outward confidence Syria finds itself in a tight corner and knows it has only limited time to prove to the outside world that its will to cooperate is genuine.

The team investigating the murder has now arrived back in Beirut to continue its investigation before its current mandate expires on December 15.

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