UN threatens sanctions unless Syria aids Hariri investigation

Western diplomats hope a meeting this morning of the council at the level of foreign ministers will adopt a tough resolution drafted by the US, France and Britain. Russia and Algeria opposed mentioning sanctions.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, and the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, are expected to attend the session. They will be there "to show the intensity of concern and to make it very clear at the highest level what we expect," said the British ambassador, Sir Emyr Jones Parry.

The ministers intend to show strong support for the special UN investigator, Detlev Mehlis, whose initial report 10 days ago implicated senior Syrian and Lebanese officials in the car-bomb assassination of Mr Hariri in Beirut in February. He cited two family members of President Bashar Assad, his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, and his brother, Maher Assad, as possible suspects.

The resolution says investigators should have full access to all Syrian suspects and be able to interview them outside Syria or beyond the gaze of Syrian government officials.

President Assad, who has denied Syrian guilt, announced on Saturday the creation of his own judicial committee to investigate the killing. He is struggling to contain the threat to his regime posed by UN action and the Mehlis findings.

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