Assad in message to US: Don't pressure Syria
Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a letter forwarded to Washington, London and Paris, pledged to bring to trial any Syrian involved in the slaying of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, The Washington Post said Wednesday.
The Syrian leader, in the letter dated Sunday, denied involvement by his country in the February 14 car bombing and warned that any international pressure on Syria would have "serious repercussions" in the region.
"I have declared that Syria is innocent of this crime, and I am ready to follow up action to bring to trial any Syrian who could be proved by concrete evidence to have had connection with this crime," Assad was quoted as saying in the letter.
He also warned against the UN report being used as a political tool to pressure Syria. "Such use of this report will have big, serious repercussions on the already tense situation which our region goes through, at a time we are more in need to have objective and constructive positions that would help the countries of the region to achieve stability," Assad said in his letter.
Meanwhile, the United States, France and Britain on Tuesday night demanded that Syria arrest government officials suspected of involvement in the assassination and ensure their cooperation with a U.N. probe or face possible sanctions.
These demands were contained in a draft resolution that orders Damascus to make the suspected officials or individuals "fully and unconditionally available" to investigators.
Russia and China have been hesitant to use the threat of sanctions to back up a call for more Syrian cooperation.
However, the new draft spells out a list of stern measures against Syria. It would slap an immediate travel ban and asset freeze on suspects identified by the commission. According to the AP, it states that Syria must allow interviews to take place outside the country and without Syrian official presence.
If Syria does not fully cooperate with the investigation, the draft says the council intends to consider "further measures," including sanctions, "to ensure compliance by Syria."
On its part, Syria on Tuesday stressed that the report into Hariri's assassination “should not be used by some UN Security Council members for purposes that wouldn’t serve the target for which the international committee was formed."
This was done during a telephone call made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during which talks dealt with Syria’s stance toward the report of Detlev Mehlis, SANA reported.