Bush says he wants to avoid confrontation with Syria as UN discusses report
Syria must take the demands of the free world "seriously," US President George W. Bush warned on Tuesday. Speaking in an interview with Dubai-based Al Arabiya television, Bush added that he hoped to avoid a confrontation with Syria over tensions involving its role in Lebanon.
"Nobody wants there to be a confrontation," he noted.
"On the other hand, there must be serious pressure applied so that the leader understands that, one, they can't house terrorist groups that will destroy the peace process with Israel and Palestine, for example; two, they should stop meddling in Lebanon; three, that they should stop allowing transit of bombers and killers into Iraq that are killing people that want there to be a democracy," the added.
Asked if force is an option in dealing with Syria, Bush noted that a military response is "always the last option." "I think one of the things that Syria has learned is that non-compliance with international demands will yield to isolation," Bush said.
Later in the day, the chief investigator into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri urged Damascus to improve its cooperation with his team to help "fill in the gaps" about who planned and executed the massive bombing in February.
Mehlis, who briefed the U.N. Security Council, said the extension of the investigation to Dec. 15 "would provide yet another opportunity for the Syrian authorities to show greater and meaningful cooperation, and to provide any relevant substantial evidence on the assassination."
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad told the council that every paragraph in the Mehlis report deserved to be refuted and he criticized Mehlis for accusing Damascus before the end of the investigation.
The commission "should not have pointed the finger or cast doubt on anybody," he said, adding that Syria "has cooperated faithfully and sincerely with the Independent International Commission" and will continue to do so.