Mehlis: Hariri investigation could take years
Damascus is still not fully cooperating with a probe into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, and investigators would need two more years at this pace, the chief of the inquiry told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Following Detlev Mehlis' comments, a resolution was introduced expanding the United Nations probe into the assassination through mid-June and possibly till later. The move, proposed by the United States, Britain and France, would broaden the investigation to cover Hariri’s death as well as other political assassinations in Lebanon over the past 14 months, and establish an international tribune to do so.
The proposal, according to The Washington Post, asks that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan explore the "nature and scope" of a tribunal with an "international character."
The request came only hours after a similar appeal was made by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who tuned to the UN Security Council to broaden the investigation and establish an international tribunal which would prosecute those responsible for the slayings of Hariri and 22 others.
The draft resolution expresses "deep concern" that Syria has not provided "full and unconditional cooperation." It also asks the UN investigative team to report on the inquiry's progress every two months. "Some support it. Some said we need to study it further and some kept silent," Algeria's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali said about the new draft resolution.
The initiative marks an escalation of international pressure on Syria, believed by many to be behind the February 14 murder of Hariri.
Mehlis noted that new cooperation of the Syrian government was a good starting point, but that much progress remained to be made with Syrian officials. He said it was too early to say if Syria was in violation of a Security Council resolution that threatened "further action" unless Syria cooperates. "We definitely are not seeing full cooperation because that would be cooperation in a timely manner."
Mehlis said that his relationship with Syria has been marked by "conflicting signals," which contributed to "confusion and delays."
However, Syria's UN ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, insisted that Damascus has "been fully cooperative" throughout the investigation. "We have given to the committee whatever it wants," he said.