Sanctions against Syria on hold as UN completes Hariri report

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The Independent Online

Britain and the US made calls over the weekend for a united front against Syria after the release last week of a preliminary report by Detlev Mehlis, the investigator, which implicated senior Syrian intelligence officials and their proxies in Lebanon. Mr Mehlis is scheduled to present his first report to the Security Council this morning.

The momentum towards imposing immediate sanctions on Damascus seemed to have slowed yesterday. Instead, the Council may take up a resolution warning Syria that it must co-operate fully with Mr Mehlis, who has until December to wrap up his inquiry.

Demonstrators meanwhile flooded Damascus yesterday in appeared to be a carefully orchestrated rally to show support for the embattled Syrian President, Bashar Assad. Youths held up banners and chanted: "We don't fear America, down with America."

France took the lead in urging a more tempered response to the preliminary report. The French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, denied that France was breaking ranks over the issue but said it was important to ensure that the Security Council was seen to be responding carefully to the independent inquiry. It is well know that Washington welcomes the opportunity to isolate Syria.

"There is no divergence, there is simply a strong affirmation on the part of France that we have an opportunity to render justice with an independent commission of inquiry," he said. "Let us allow that commission to run its full course."

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